For the most part the people at my current place of employment continue to treat me like I’m an alien from another planet. Or maybe a pod person. It varies from day to day. There are a few exceptions. One of them is a woman whose husband occupies a figurehead position and used that light influence to secure her a position as the company’s designated filer. She loves her job, absolutely loves it. I’ve had jobs like hers before and they suck hairy donkey balls, but she’s possessive of what I refer to as the WBB (Worker Bee Brain). My mother has a WBB, lots of my friends have WBBs, and countless members of my extended family have WBBs. Alas, I have never quite managed to acquire a WBB and have long sought to be employed for the some type of intellectual or creative enterprise. Silly me! It’s never happened. It won’t ever happen. Pfft!
This woman is a sweetheart. We converse about quite a few things. The subject matter ranges from cockroaches to politics to the goings-on of her children. She wants little from life but to be secure in her person, attend her church, and be with her family. I respect her for ability to just . . . well, live. Today she asked me what I had done last night. My answer? Drank beer, ate a sandwich, and watched the Presidential debate in my pajamas. (Yes, I do practically drink every night. Problem with that?) The woman looked at me and said, “You know, I haven’t watched any of the debates and I don’t really read the paper, but I’m really undecided. There is something I don’t like about Obama, though.” I asked her what it was she didn’t like. From anyone else, anyone I hadn’t had an opportunity to engage in conversation, the following answer would have sent me into paroxysms of fear and left me incredulous. “Well,” she said. “it really bothers me that he won’t put his hand over his heart when they say the pledge . . . or sing the national anthem. You know? I mean, that’s a big part of America.”
I was about to walk to the library and only had fifty minutes to get there and back. But I stopped for a second and thought to myself. I had one of two options. Option one: I could have smiled politely and said something similar to the following:
“Well, I totally understand.” (even though I don’t understand, especially when this allegation has been proven false), and walk away. Option two: Respectfully, share my position. I opted the for the latter and said something along the following lines.
“Well, I can see how that would be a valid objection, and you have to use whatever criteria you feel matter most when you decide to vote. I think the most important thing is just that you vote—period. Even if you only write yourself in, just vote! But I would say this, as much as I understand the need for people to examine symbolic action taken or not taken by a candidate, the idea of America is stronger than any symbol. At least it is for me. I’m a patriot. Very much so, but I don’t believe whether or not someone places their hand over their heart for the Pledge or Anthem is a valid measure of one’s patriotism, if only because quite a few of those same people who would judge those things don’t even know the words to the national anthem, how many justices are on the Supreme Court, or which parts of the Constitution affords them what rights. I think those things, much more than whether or not someone wears a flag pin or shits red, white, and blue, are a more important part of America . . . for now. We’re a work in progress. Democracy is an experiment. The USA is an experiment.
“Neither of these candidates is perfect. But if one of them will wrest us away from the politics of fear then I’m for it. If we’re talking about what’s American and un-American, how American is it that under the present administration’s guise it’s been perfectly possible that these books I’m taking back to the library could potentially put me on a terrorist watch list? Is that what America is supposed to be? You should vote for whoever you believe will do the best job, but be sure the logic behind your decision isn’t just something you’ve been told to believe. Just like what I’m telling you, it’s not necessarily something you should believe, just consider. Does that make sense?”
She looked at me and said, “Yeah, I can see what you mean.”
I kind of felt like an asshole after saying all of this. This is a woman with five children, she’s been married twice, and she is probably happier in her skin than I will ever be in mine. She loves her life. Who am I to pretend to tell her how to precondition her electoral participation? Well, I’m no one really, but I don’t know that my idea of America would be worth talking about if I hadn’t at least tried to point out to her that the pettiness which has so negatively impacted the process is a larger danger to the idea of America than the lack of any lapel pin or an uncovered heart.
I hope I didn’t come off like a snot-nosed, idealistic shit.
As a final note . . . I'm listening to Fresh Air as I type this and am hearing about anonymously composed fliers being circulated in primarily African American neighborhoods in Philadelphia in which the recipients are told that they should not vote. Why should they not vote? Because of the undercover police officers at the polling stations who will be present to arrest people with unpaid traffic citations, warrants, and the like.
That's right. That's the level we've been reduced to. And they call it the City of Brotherly love. If this is what happens there, imagine what types of things are going to be possible in the South.
Do not let this happen. Shame on any of you who would dare to engage in these types of tactics. For what? Are you really so afraid of those who are different from you?
Hearing this just now makes me furious. It pisses me off so much that I could cry.
The next segment is about potential voter intimidation tactics in crucial swing states. If you haven't listened to this, I suggest you go to the NPR web site and listen. Talk about this with your friends.
The last time I cried because of politics was the year 2000. I don't think I need to say too much as to why. All I will say is that the whole thing left me coated in disbelief and killed a very significant part of my idealism. I couldn't believe the system could be so fucked up. Don't allow ignorance and fear to steal another election. Let the process override all prejudice.
Here is hoping.