As I sat in the polling place yesterday, I pondered this great nation of ours.
I watched an older gentleman, a veteran, feebly walk in with his cane and thick, bottle-bottom glasses. I surreptitiously magnified his ballot for him (you can do that with these really cool touch-screen voter machines - it's pretty bad-ass) so that he wouldn't have so much difficultly reading his choices. He fought for our country, for our right to stay free and choose our leaders. And here he was, participating in that most basic American right that we all take for granted that so many countries don't have, couldn't even conceive of having.
We have a tradition at our precinct that we cheer, really loud, for the first-time voters. It's cute because the 18-year-old boys get completely freaked out and embarrassed when we do it, which makes us cheer all the louder. We also gave them each an American flag bandana. We must have passed out 35 bandanas, a record for us. One girl had her mother taking her picture she was so excited. They all smiled, took their ballot cards, and quietly asked how to work the machines. And I showed each one, proud as if I had given life to them myself, how to operate the touch screen and cast their vote. I congratulated them on coming out to their first-ever election day. And made sure to let them know that every election is as important, as meaningful, as their first. Hopefully, they'll show up for those boring, off-year, local bond elections.
So many women voted yesterday. When I think that it was just in the last century that the gentler half of humanity received the right to vote in this country, I thank my lucky stars. When I think of the ten people who worked at our precinct yesterday, only one was a man. One. The rest of us are voting, empowered women. We nine ladies set up that precinct, made sure everyone who walked through those doors voted in peace, and then got those ballots to the elections office when it was all over. We ladies did that. Oh, and that one guy. Those suffragists had to go through beatings and jail and all sorts of obstacles to win us the vote and whenever I touch "Cast Your Ballot" on that touchscreen, I silently thank them. Because had they not fought, I would have been at home yesterday with no voice.
In the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries, many states enacted poll taxes to keep blacks and poor whites away from voting. Black men were beaten and intimidated and the majority of them would not vote. Nope. Wasn't worth their lives. Yesterday, African-Americans across the country voted. How awesome is that? No one beat them up for showing up at polling places. There was one family at our precinct yesterday that stopped me while I watched them. There was an African-American father who came in with his mother and daughter. It was his daughter's first election. She was so excited that when she got her American flag bandana, she asked her father to take her picture. While she voted, her father filled out his paperwork to vote and helped his mother. You see, his mother is completely blind. After his daughter finished, she sat with her grandmother while the father voted. And finally, the grandmother voted with assistance from her son. Three generations, determined to make sure their voices count. 150 years ago, none of those three would have been allowed to vote and yesterday, there they were. It brought tears to my eyes.
We voted on November 6th. The polls opened on the east coast at 7AM (in general) and by midnight last night, we knew who our president will be for the next four years. Not two weeks from now, not two months from now, but last. night. None of us had to dodge bullets to get to our ballot boxes. We can yell and holler and scream and shake our fists about the opposing candidates and not worry about a visit from said candidate to shut us up. And once the candidate who we dislike wins, we can still sit there and bad mouth him or her because our Bill of Rights protects us.
If Governor Romney had won last night, the transfer of power in January would have happened peacefully. The president-elect and his wife would have had brunch with President Obama and his family, they would have driven to the Capitol, and Romney would have taken the Oath of Office. Shortly thereafter, President Obama would have flown to his new home. There would have been no gunfire, no fighting, no armies forcing one form of government on a people over another. It would have been peaceful, as it was when Clinton won over Bush, as it was when Reagan defeated Carter, and on back as far as our country has existed. In four years, when a Democrat or Republican takes office in replacement of Obama, that will happen. And this coming January, President Obama will take the Oath of Office and continue his job, peacefully and without strife. Last night Governor Romney conceded the election to the victor and didn't threaten to beat down the doors of the White House. He didn't mobilize his voters to take over the government. He conceded to the victor. Peacefully.
What you're all forgetting is that our country, regardless of who wins and who loses, is this incredible place where the people speak and the government listens. We choose our leaders and those leaders take their place while those who lost their elections go home to become regular citizens again. All without loss or threatening of life. This is what makes our country so great and so special. And if any of you comment that None of our votes count then realize that you are spouting a load of bullshit. Every. Single. Vote. Matters.
And when we vote, our voices speak. Finally, we are a country, a people, who has realized that the pen, the voice, is truly mightier than the sword. Be proud of that, embrace that, and keep voting. Keep speaking. And realize that that is what makes us great.