Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Voting Mayhem and Cultural Goodness Trickery

Election Day 2008!
Last night my Choir Director (yes, I know, I'm a dork. But I love it. Shut up.) said that her six-year-old daughter ran into her room early that morning, saying "Mom! Obama's at 55 and McCain is at 45. I don't know what that means, but those are the numbers." Of course, she, as a mom of a six-year-old, went on the "good job! Now which of those numbers are bigger?..." tangent, all the while thinking that this is one example how, in truth, this one has been a historic election but when a child of that age is so involved, is that a good or bad thing?...
I don't know. There are certainly arguments to both sides of that issue, but as for me, I think that the enormous wave this election has sent through our country, and even through the world, is indicative of other changes that are just part of our story, as people on this Earth. I'm excited to see what will happen. If someone had told me, a child of the south who was raised in a highly racist town, that so many people of all ethnicities would be coming together in this way, I would have scoffed. And yet here is is. How marvelous.
Now, that said, my own voting experience today didn't exactly go...smoothly...
First, I couldn't find where my polling place was. I made calls. I went to websites. And other websites. And different websites. And I would get referrals to even more dead end ones, or short and (not so) sweet messages that said the information was suddenly not available for lookup. So, silly me, I assumed that my polling place would be the same as one that I used for the primaries. And I, vaguely, remembered where that was. So, I started driving. And the streets where I live are on a decent grid pattern, except, of course, in that section of town. Hmm. It was a maze. But, I was triumphant, and found it, after only a couple of U-turns and complete loss of my internal compass after so many zigzagging streets.
So, I parked, and stood in line. And told the guy at the central hub table thing my address, showed him my ID, and he couldn't find my name on the list. Ok, understandable. I only changed my voter's registration to my new address a month or so ago. But then he looks on the map (which was the ODDEST map I have ever seen, I'm still not sure which side North was) and says I'm in the wrong location. After, that is, asking me a couple times if I'm sure that I live on my street. Hmm. (yes, I do know how to apply mascara AND can form a complete sentence. Perhaps even at the same time! I know it's a hard concept to grasp, friend.)
Ok. So I start driving to the next one. (meanwhile listening to The Time Traveler's Wife on book-on-cd, and it's fabulous! Definitely pick it up.) The other polling place is on S. 7th St.
You would think that if you pass 1st St, 2nd St, and so on to 6th St, that the next one would be 7th. Not the case. There I am, sure about my street numbers, about to confidently make a left on the cool and cloudy morning in Alhambra, and, no. It's 8th St. What the...?
I do not mind getting lost. When I'm not in a hurry. Actually, I often like it and see it as a kind of adventure. I've seen the most beautiful architectural stylings getting lost in South Pas and San Bernadino. However, I was supposed to quickly cast my vote and head to work, and here I am, already over an hour late. So, I still hang a left, knowing how these things often work, and hope that 7th St shows up, at some point.
And it does. It was one of those magically secret hidden streets. Hmm.
But I go in, to my correct table, and...they can't find my name. Big surprise (note: I had gotten paperwork saying my voter registry had been updated. This was about 2 weeks ago. Grr).
The sweet woman there directs me into a small hidden room (again with the hidden things) that she says may hold my name, and I see her look of shock when I say that this is the second polling place I've been to this morning. "Don't worry honey. If they can't help you in there, you come back and see me and we'll make sure that you get to vote." (not that I was really worried about that, but it made me feel nice anyway. Heck, it's no question who's going to win California, he'll win with or without my vote. But I hate it when people say things like that so there I was. I also hate it when people are on their cell phones in the checkout line. Just when they're actually checking out, that is. I tend to put folks on hold).
So, I go to the little room where she sent me, where no one spoke English, and, sure enough, my name was not there, even after every person with a list took my ID, frowned at me, frowned at the list, then shook their heads.
Ok. So I filled out a provisional ballot. Halfway through of doing which, by the way, one of the ladies from the table crowded next to me in my booth and demanded her pen back. (I don't want your spotty ballpoint pen, woman, I was gonna give it back to you when I was finished. Sheeeesh).
But, in the end, I got my sticker! And I helped ensure a landslide CA victory, which I'm sure it'll be for Obama. Which is nice.
I heard some quote or other about how, with the fact that votes literally don't matter much (electoral college and all that), and how things like money for marketing DO matter, that you'd probably be supporting your chosen candidate more by donating to their campaign than actually voting for them. There's just something wrong with that.
It all goes along with how we're taught that doing these kinds of things not only makes us a good citizen, but a good person. The act of stamping a little ink thingy onto a long skinny piece of paper is in no way intrinsically virtuous, just like sitting in a chair with a needle in your arm is not directly (so you can see it) saving anyone's life. So much blood we dotate is tossed out anyway. But I bet you feel an influx of "goodness" when you leave that red truck, everyone does.
That's ok. Feeling like we are making a mark on the world is important. I made peanut butter cookies last night, does that count for a mark on the world? Well, I think it made me a little happier. T too, I'm pretty sure (yay for the fact that the pb cookie recipe I use doesn't call for any flour, I didn't even have to alter them so his gluten-intolerant self could eat them).
I think I'll count it :)

Don't forget to Vote!

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