OK, so I’m lame. I early-voted. It wasn’t my lawyer friends who did me in. It was my yoga friends. You know, peace, love, mindfulness, what-the-fuck-do-you-mean-you-haven’t-early-voted? What are you, a moron?
Oh, and hey! Namaste!
“Just think,” the woman next to me said relaxing into cross-legged position. “It’s going to be crowded on election day. Some of the first-time voters might get discouraged with long lines. They might just leave — and never vote.”
“I’d hate to think I was taking somebody else’s place in line,” another woman said. She might have been in a shoulder stand. “I’d feel really awful.”
About that time, our yoga teacher wandered in. She’s just back from Thailand, where, she insisted, the attempted revolution “wasn’t a big deal if you weren’t in Bangkok. We didn’t notice anything.”
In other words, you focus on your inner world; the outer world will take care of itself. Like most yogis, she had never struck me as terribly political. Surely I could get some solace here. Unfortunately, I noticed, she was wearing a T-shirt I’d never seen before: “VOTE” was emblazoned across it. Cancel that whole solace idea.
The way everybody was carrying on, you would have thought I was actively pilfering a place in a voting-day line from some young idealist whose naivete and political dreams would have been crushed by having to wait five more minutes behind me. So, I went ahead and early-voted. I’m what you would call resistant to threats and extremely prone to guilt (thanks, Mother).
It was a gorgeous day today, with a flawless, bright blue sky and warm sun. It’s the kind of day that feels like a gift, even if you spent most of the summer suffering through Texas’ unbearable heat and merciless sun and feel as if you, personally, have earned every gorgeous fall day by persevering against the odds and triple-digit temperatures.
Inside the neighborhood library where I voted, people were crowded into every booth and I had to wait. It might have been early, but it still had the feel of election day to me. I take this voting so damned seriously and feel it so deeply inside me. For a Fake American, a cynic and a liberal, I am really quite patriotic.
I turned the wheel around and voted for Obama and Biden. Of course, I’d planned to do that for months. It was no surprise at all.
But, still. I grew up in an era and area that often told me blacks (although, believe me, that wasn’t the term that was used) weren’t as good or as smart or as moral as whites. I’ve seen segregated water fountains and restrooms. I’ve watched civil rights marches on little black-and-white TV sets while the adults around me muttered that “they” wanted too much, were asking for trouble.
And now, on this gorgeous day, I was voting for a presidential candidate who is black. He’s also the more qualified, by intellect and temperament, in my opinion. He may be, as Colin Powell said, a “transformational” candidate. I’m not young or naive or terribly idealistic, but I fervently hope Powell is right about this. We need a good transformation in this country. We need someone who can inspire us.
“You can’t believe how race relations have changed since we were kids, how far we’ve come,” my husband and I have told our twenty-something children. Of course, things haven’t changed enough and we haven’t come as far as we need to.
But, on a gorgeous fall day, you can hope something good and transformative is happening across this nation. How long has it been since you felt like that? Way, way too long.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)