Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In which Amanda exercises her civic duty

Today I early voted for Barack Obama at the Pyramid Recovery center in South Memphis. The whole process took nearly an hour and a half because there were so many people there, and, also, the computer system went down temporarily (Goddamn, these electronic voting machines are a bad idea people. A bad idea!). When I arrived, I counted approximately 30 people in line ahead of me, and when I left, there were at least 50 still waiting, including a huge group of kids that had to have just turned 18 this year; they were all baby-faced and flirting with one another while waiting their turn, but really well-behaved. There were also people there so elderly that they could not walk without assistance; the turnout today in S. Memphis really ran the gamut.

In line, I looked up on the wall to see a trio of portraits: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela, and I was seized by my own satisfaction in being able to vote for an African-American man for president in a city, in a region, that has seen so much violent oppression of minorities. My stomach clenched and my eyes filled as I thought about Dr. King and all the other activists who did not live to see this day in America, a day in which it seems (not getting overly cocky here), a majority of people are eager to put a black man in the White House.

Maybe I was relieved because there have been so many stories in the press in recent weeks that exposed the inherent racism that still thrives in this country. I hate it when stories like that become commonplace, and they have, and it makes me so sick and sad that people cling so desperately to hate. Even members of my own family find it easy to toss off comments that reveal their own distrust and distaste of Obama, indeed their own negativity toward anyone Not White, and I'm so pathetic that I can't even find a way to express how wrong they are.

I cannot speak of race eloquently, so I'm not going to try. But when I stepped up to that little machine, I took a deep breath and stared at the screen for a long time; I wanted to register the moment in my memory, and I wanted to really feel it in my heart. Every once in awhile I need a day like this, in which I feel a little bit proud of my country and the things that can be accomplished here, the -- dare I say -- Change that can occur when wrongs turn to right.



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