Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Godspeed, Droopy Face

In my busy life as a working mother of two, I rarely find much free time.

Start again:

Working for the lawyers and going to class at night keeps my time sufficiently crunched. Today is Election Day and I knew that if I were to perform my civic duty I would have to do so in the early A.M. It’s a bitch, yes, but it is preferable to living in a country where that right would not be mine. Then again, considering the outcome of the last Presidential Election, do I really reside in a land where my vote counts?

The first time I was able to vote was the great Clinton v. Bush election of the early 1990’s. I was going to school at the time and working as a bar coder—a job so dull it often made me want to stab myself in the jugular. Voting was exciting. Finally, I would have a voice. I was an adult. I had responsibilities. November beckoned and I was ready.

I was taking a philosophy class and my teacher was perhaps the brightest I have ever had, and I am currently enrolled in my third institution of higher learning. I’ve met tenured professors who hold numerous PhDs. I’ve met T.A.s who still have that passion you only see in bad films with Robin Williams. I’ve encountered wise men and women who had something to teach me that no book could. Of them all, this woman stands out not only for her tutelage but her keen eye and ability to balance the ideal with the pragmatic. When the debates were being conducted, she eschewed lecturing to let us watch Bush and Clinton tongue wrestle. I asked her a silly question:

“So, who are you voting for?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m thinking of not voting.”


She pointed to the split screen, where George and Bill were dancing in front of the nation. “I don’t know that I wish to sell my vote this cheaply.”

I have never forgotten those words.

She had a point. As socially irresponsible as it might have been to skip the ballots, it made sense philosophically. In theory, my vote is precious. I know this. My father has said it to me countless times. My Grandfather fought in World War II for my right to vote. People have died for this privilege. It is a slap in the face to ignore this. Although I realize that is the truth I have to admit another inarguable fact: my valuable vote is wasted on these goons.

This is the best we can do? These are our options? In 2000 I was of the opinion that a trained monkey could have beaten George W. Bush. Sadly, I was mistaken. Al Gore should have won, but that stick of plywood could hardly muster up the enthusiasm within his own party to ensure victory. And I still don’t believe Nader stole his votes. Nader or not, Clinton would have mopped the floor with W., even after the blowjob scandal. That guy knew how to campaign.

Back to today:

I woke up at 5:30 in morning, showered, got my books together for school and walked with mi novia to my local voting booth located on Ashland. I live in what was once Little Italy and is now referred to as the Tri-Taylor area. The neighborhood is packed with annoying college kids, elderly Italians and the last remnants of the crumbling ghetto on Racine. Among them, I walked to the polls eager to cast my vote and get on with my day.

As of 6:00 A.M. the booths were not ready. Only one of the moderators was there and I was informed that the voting could not begin until at least one more arrived. There was nothing to do but wait. I thought I might explain that this would be the only time today I could vote. I had to get to work by 7:30, had a class during my lunch break and then had errands to run after 5:00. It would be next to impossible to get to the polls at any other time. Well, it would not be impossible but the point of opening the poles in the early morning was to accommodate people like me. Goddamnit, my rights were being trampled. Seems to be happening a lot with this administration.

We went for coffee and killed some time. Chicago skies opened and the rain fell like piss. It was gray and cold and depressing. Perfect. November 2, 2004 was shaping up to be a lousy day and it was not even 6:30.

Back at the booths, they seemed to have gotten their shit together. We got in line behind a cranky older woman who, like us, had arrived early and, like us, was none too pleased. When the young volunteer informed her that she was not in his book, the lady blew her stack. He asked her if she was registered.

“Of course I’m registered!” She turned to my novia. “Do you believe what he’s asking me?”

In response, Lo said, “He’s just asking you a question.”

A minor debate ensued and the line was subsequently held up like a convenience store. The woman nearly walked out, saying something along the lines of, “If I ain’t in your book, I ain’t gonna vote!” It appeared I would have to forgo voting or be late for work. Deciding that work could go fuck itself, I waited.

Eventually I was granted a ballot and led to a booth. The archaic manner of poking holes in a Scan Tron sheet worried me. It seems so easy to make an error and this is a crucial election—certainly the most crucial in my lifetime. I would think a simpler, more effective way of voting could be arranged. The paper and needle just doesn’t inspire confidence. I like words; I like the idea of casting my vote in big bold letters that would make John Hancock proud. A pinpricked ballot does not seem correct.

Considering the events of this morning, it is easy to understand low voter turn out. Still, inconvenience is not an excuse. We live in a society where we have a voice and yes, not using it is shameful. As cynical as I am, I still believe in this concept. I realize my Presidential vote might not mean a damn thing considering I live in Illinois and Kerry will surely win my state. The real question is how badly Obama is going to whip his goddamn homophobic putz of an opponent. Nevertheless, I got my dead as out of bed nice and early and cast my little vote in this absurd election. I pray the results come soon as I cannot stand the idea of waiting weeks to find out if the droopy faced guy beat the dumb frat boy. As much as I admire my former teacher, I have let pragmatism win out over idealism. I sold my vote rather cheaply. Godspeed, droopy face.