I woke up last Tuesday morning to a quiet home and a dark street. I had to be at the church across the way in one hour to help set up our voting precinct’s polling place. Nine of us would set up the voting and ballot-creating machines and spend the next fourteen-odd hours making sure the registered voters of Rose Creek precinct were able to select their candidates smoothly, quickly, and without conflict or interruption.
You see, I’m a smart bunny. I know what’s up. I know that there’s a good portion of the country who, ideally, would only like white people to vote. Hell, I’m pretty sure those people are also pretty fuckin’ bitter that the suffragettes won the right to vote in 1920. They would rather only white men voted. So, they make it difficult with gerrymandering and voter ID laws and Jim Crow-esque regulations. And those are the same people who swagger into our precinct and loudly proclaim, “IT’S MY SON’S FIRST TIME VOTIN’! HE’S 18! BUT, A’COURSE, HE AIN’T VOTIN’ THE RIGHT WAY!” So, let’s amend this that there’s a demographic who wishes only white, English-speaking men, probably 35 and older, had the right to vote.
Now, I also know there’s also a whole other cross-section of the country who wants EVERYONE to vote. Particularly those who aren’t citizens. Oh, they pay taxes, so they should be able to vote! It doesn’t matter that they come here in a less-than-honest manner, let’s give ’em all voter access! Let ’em vote! No matter that only UK/Commonwealth/Irish citizens can vote in UK elections. No matter that Mexico, France, Poland, Singapore, and Brazil require IDs when voting to establish citizenship. HERE, IN THE STATES, WE LET EVERYONE VOTE!!!
I get all of this. I absorb it. And I know that, as a Georgia poll worker, I have to follow certain regulations and rules. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow anyone to make it difficult for anyone else to vote. And so, I got ready.
But, I didn’t wear the usual red, white, and blue. No, that day, I had a statement to make. I wasn’t allowed to wear an elephant or a donkey, a candidate button or t-shirt, so instead I chose the only thing I could choose.
I donned my uniform of mourning. Black skirt and shirt. Black boots and jacket. When I arrived at the church, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was in their festive red, white, and blue, all matchy-matchy with the precinct decor. And there I sat, behind my Express Poll station, in my emo black. I joked to everyone who asked that, with my purple hair, I was the outcast of the group. What I didn’t say was that I was in mourning for my country.
And still am.
I am sad that the only two major candidates our country could offer was a criminal and a sexist, bigoted, racist loudmouth. I am sad that lip service is only given to two candidates at a time. I am sad that moderate candidates are ignored and tossed aside like yesterday’s trash. I am sad that the pervasiveness of racism and sexism in this country is on the rise. I am sad that Democrats look down their noses at the very people they once proclaimed to defend. I am sad that Republican have worked on a policy of obstruction and not on a policy of doing any actual work. I am sad that evangelical Christians have hijacked the Republican party. I am sad that our news media is no journalism and all entertainment, catering to one extreme or the other, and in turn, filling our heads with partisan excess. I am sad that a presidential election is treated as though it were a Super Bowl. I am sad that even in this contentious an election, 50 million American citizens couldn’t find the time, energy, or inspiration to vote. I am sad that social media has allowed us to become armchair activists, giving us license to spread pretentious views that are empty of any substance, yet make us feel like we’ve actually done something.
To say that I went to bed on Tuesday, November 8th pissed at everyone would be an understatement. To say I woke up the next morning pissed and sad? Another understatement. I was so disappointed and crushed and, just, tired. Tired that people still think it’s OK to treat women like pieces of meat especially since their president-elect told them he does it. Tired that people think it’s acceptable to break federal laws and still run for the highest office in the land. Tired that people think #alllivesmatter is an acceptable answer to #blacklivesmatter instead of asking why we have to have that second hashtag in the first place? Tired that people think a wall dividing us is perfectly acceptable, but figuring out a way to give people an opportunity to live and work here legally isn’t. Tired that people think a third party is a waste of a vote, even when that third party has the only rational people on the ticket. Tired that one side is extremely pretentious and unyielding, calling the other “uneducated.” Tired that the other side is extremely rigid, unbending, and unwilling to admit that we. need. to. do. something. for our brothers and sisters of color/other-religions-not-Christianity. Tired that if I walk through Woodstock, Georgia, Bible Belt USA, in an “I’m an Atheist, Ask Me Anything!” t-shirt, that I’ll be more reviled and more distrusted than a convicted felon. Tired that my daughter will have to grow up wary of all men as I did. Tired that the children of my black friends may not live past their 30th birthday because of the violence perpetrated on them by society. My society. Tired that my sons may have to listen to their friends demean a girl simply because she exists.
I’m in mourning. For all of us. For all of our actions and inactions. I’ve decided, right now, that I’m stepping outside my privilege and making sure I’m fully educated. But don’t expect me to live up to anyone’s expectations but my own. I will continue to be a safe harbor for anyone who needs me. I will continue to learn and try my best to understand. I will continue to try and make people laugh. I will continue voting third-party and anti-incumbent in the hopes that my children will one day walk into a polling place and see more than two choices on the ballot. I will continue to teach my children to be good people, who treat everyone equally and with respect, and to not be pretentious asshats.
I. Will. Be. Me.
And I will one day be proud of my country again.