this is what I did: I walked into my polling place and began to cry. It was not mobbed, no long lines, just bustling. And something about seeing everyone there to exercise this precious right made me teary.
It’s easy to take voting for granted or to be cynical, but if events around the world like the Arab Spring teach us anything it is that people are willing to die for this right that has been handed to us by the lucky accident of our birthplace. This morning, like schools and libraries and storefronts across the country, the Graham and Parks School, was filled with people taking their place in the drama of democracy.
Yes, the campaign has been unbearable. Way too long, starting about the time Mitch McConnell declared his party’s primary objective to be replacing Barack Obama with a Republican to be named later. Way too expensive, using a lot of money, including my own, that could have been put to more socially just and useful purposes. Way too heated, making me, for one, dislike the person I found myself turning into.
But this morning at Graham and Parks School no one was wearing campaign buttons. It felt like a moment of pure civic engagement, as if this wildly divisive campaign had ended in a moment of quiet, sober participation.
I am not so naive that I think we don’t have to worry about the lines in Florida and the voting machines in Ohio and many other et ceteras. Or that we’ll wake up tomorrow in our neighborhoods, shake hands with those on the other side of our political hedges, and seamlessly coalesce into “the American people” or, taking the words of Langston Hughes not entirely out of context, “...let America be America again.” (After all, that poem continues, “The land that never has been yet/And yet, must be.”)
But when I got back in my car after casting my ballot, I heard a young man, a first-time voter, interviewed after he voted, saying, “Whoever’s elected, that’s my president.” And I cried some more.