I decided to vote early today, simply because I'd never done it before, and I wanted to see what it was like. Also I decided it would probably be a good idea to leave my apartment at some point this week. So I discarded my paranoia that something would happen to these votes between now and Tuesday, that I was tempting fate by turning the calendar ahead somehow. I am worried enough about weirdness in areas with no power, and I don't suppose that will happen here.
The line was long but I was out in 40 minutes. I was stuck behind a woman complaining about the line and the process the whole time, and in front of a teenager with her parents who bitched nonstop about everything. Everything. She was going to be late. No, her friend couldn't come pick her up and take her to Glen Burnie. No, she doesn't like to inconvenience people (oh, really?) Then, GOD YOU KNOW WHAT we're DOING Mom and Dad, we're TOTALLY wasting our time because it's MARYLAND, and it's not like your vote is going to MATTER.
They corrected her, not strongly enough, in my jerkface teacher's opinion.
We get to do this. We GET to participate in our government. And I don't know what's up with the people around me, maybe it's not such a big deal to them, maybe they've had a bad day, maybe they're tired and cranky, maybe they have the audacity to be 16. But when the lady complained at me the final time about why the line was going the way it was going, and how were the people going to know to go to the back, and why and what and WHY, I smiled and said, "You know, I have no idea, but we're going to get there, and anyway I'd stand in six lines to do this, because I get to." And she didn't like that at all, no she didn't. She may have in fact said some very harsh things to me about the necessity of saying that at all, but the thing is that I'd say it again. Mostly it's because I haven't been out of my house at all for awhile because of Sandy and a list of freelance jobs that has kept me tied to this spot more than usual, hmm, MAYBE. But mostly it's because I would stand in those lines with my face in my phone for another hour or so than I had to, and I could maybe medal in complaining in some kind of complaining athletic contest, given the chance.
And I am nobody's political superhero. I haven't traveled around the world and witnessed political oppression in ways that make me even a minor league authority (although being in Vietnam during the Obama/Clinton primary race made me come home and feel like I'd be at peace with either option, which I couldn't say when I left, because again, we got to participate. We got to help pick!) I'm not a lobbyist or an active volunteer. I have no more cred than anyone else about the politics of politics. I just know that there are places where people don't get to line up and participate, where people get killed and jailed because they speak out against the government where they don't get to do those things. I know that women who I'm guessing were much stronger and mouthier and more committed to social justice than I am marched and inconvenienced themselves and put themselves and their families through public scrutiny and criticism all the way into the history books for gaining the right to vote. I know that African-Americans did the same, going through their own horrible period of trial to get the same right. People died for this. People still die for this in other places. People still face barriers here.
By the time I got to the ballot I was a terrible emo song of political engagement, a sad one woman Schoolhouse Rock show, Laurie Liberty, the Tragic Years, the sad, sad distant relative of the superstar Preamble girl, the segment that wisely got left on the cutting room floor. I looked at the list of options and thought of all that was at stake depending who was in charge of this country and my little state, who you could trust to guide the place where you live with integrity and a sense of humanity, as well as intelligence and strategy and common sense. I looked at the ballot items that represent livelihoods and homes and governance on so many important issues. I thought about my own sense of helplessness during the 2000s, where I despaired over our electoral process and felt that it had been sold to people who didn't care about anything but their own vested interests.
I'm sorry, people in my line at around 4:30. I am why you had to wait three more minutes.
Then I got to check a box and contribute to a decision about whether gay people in my state who love each other and want to live in commitment can do so with equal protection under the law. I didn't want to have to check that box, because the matter was solved by our state legislature months ago, but there are people here who are so threatened by that concept that they made us put it on our ballot, and so I got to cast my vote.
I got to check a box and indicate whether I thought that students who live in my town without citizenship papers can pay in-state tuition to get themselves educated and to contribute to an economy they're participating in anyway.
I got to do that, and this year, it made me cry, standing right there. I took a very deep breath before I cast that whole ballot. What went through my mind is what for me is prayer. I couldn't believe how I felt. I felt a little crazy, actually.
I would have stood in line for a lot longer than 40 minutes for all of that. I get to do that.
Because I totally want my guy to win.