In fifth grade I went to vote with my mother. It wasn’t the first time she took me to a polling place, and it wasn’t the last. But this time stands out among the others because we were “voting” in school too. We were learning about the government. About checks and balances. We had to take our “ballots” to the polling places with our parents and “cast” them in a box set aside for school children. We had to pick a side. Republican or Democrat. No crazy person wanted to be an Independent. I didn’t know much about much, but I knew that Bill Clinton talked with a funny accent, and that my mom liked him. I remember hearing her complain about George Bush. I remember thinking Ross Perot had giant ears and didn’t like kids. I don’t know why I thought he didn’t like kids. I just thought that. That day I eagerly and easily cast my vote for Bill Clinton. And the next day we found out that he won! I thought I had this all figured out.
On November 7, 2000 I voted in my first real election. I remember walking into the local church with my mother. It was about a mile from our house in Leavenworth. I remember the smell of the musty basement. The fake wooden walls. The senior citizens passing out pamphlets. I remember them asking if I was a Republican or a Democrat. I nervously eyed my mom, who said, “Democrat”, in a low, but prideful voice. I remember showing my id. You had to show your id in Kansas, still do I believe. I remember being afraid they would tell me I couldn’t vote for one reason or another. I remember it all very well. Though at the time, I wasn’t sure why it felt so important.
I remember watching the results come in. Going to sleep that night knowing that Al Gore would be our next president. I was happy and calm.
Then I remember the news the next morning.
The hate from both sides.
The Court’s decision.
I’m sad and ashamed to say that I didn’t vote again until 2004. I was angry and confused. I had voted. I had done my part and Gore had won the popular vote. I didn’t yet understand the politics in our country. I can’t say I understand why politicians do and say what they do now, but I am better versed at how it all works.
Over the years I’ve seen candidates that I have loved and those that I have despised. They both stick with you. Good and bad. John Kerry was served a disappointing loss. But the happiness and strength I felt holding my newborn son, watching President Obama get sworn in, is one of the most endearing memories of my adult life.
Which brings me to today, in a hurried fashion. I want to say something motivating, something captivating. But again I am at a crossroads of shame and sadness. I am ashamed that we let out country get to this point. I am nervous that the good will not trump the evil. I am ashamed that I have not tried to do more. I am sad that we have all not tried to do more.
But, I march on. We all do. Some with sadness, anxiety, and dread, mixing around in our brains with a peppering of optimism and if we’re lucky, a bit of wine to take the edge off. Some see the significance of today. Others will not. But in the end, we are all in this together, whether we like it or not. And if you’re like me, you’re just trying to make the world a little bit better day by day. And if you’re like me you’re scared and a little sad. A little ashamed and a little anxious. But remember, it will all look better in the morning.