Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Voting. And if you think this is a democracy...

So, you think we live in a democracy? One person, one vote? Er, not today. But, that's okay, this is still a great country. We are a republic, after all. And a damn fine one at that, even with all our faults.

Unless you've been under a rock for the last year -- and if you are reading Tidewater Musings, you likely haven't been -- you know that today is the day we vote for the guy who's going to work in the White House for the next four years. I doubt we're gonna know today who it is, but we're polling today. The first polls in the nation have already closed. Little towns in New Hampshire have opened, and closed, polls already; Bush is ahead.

This morning, on my way to work, I joined many Americans at the polls. And, like most Americans, I encountered a line. The line snaked down the block from my polling place, Emanuel AME Church on North Street in Portsmouth. I count more than 75 people in front of me as I take my place at the rear of the line. Never before have I seen such a line here. Usually, I drive in, jump out, dodge in, vote, and return to my car in a mere three minutes. No such luck today. Today, it takes me an hour to get in and out.

This is a vote people feel is important. Clearly. Behind me, I heard a couple saying this was "wonderful." I'm thinking it's scary: we've become so polarized as a people that no one is staying home from the polls. Americans aren't going to let someone else make the choice of president for them.

Well, actually, we are. Even my ballot indicated I was voting for electoral represenatives, not the actual candidates themselves.

So, back in line. There's a cross section of my neighborhood... which might be a cross-section of America. Folks in suits. Folks in jeans. Folks in construction clothes. A guy drives up in a decked-out Avalon; he's wearing bling bling that shines bright in the November sun. There are parents with school age children and senior citizens in wheel chairs (they cut to the front of the line, entering the building up the ramp on the side). I creep forward; behind me the line grows longer, stretching back to the corner of the block.

As I mentioned, I place my vote at the local AME church. For a while, I lived not much more than a block from the church in a house built before the Revolutionary War. The church was founded even before that house was built. The current building completed just a couple of years before the Civil War. When I pass by on Sunday's, there's always a crowd of well-dressed church-goers: men in dark suits and crisp white shirts; women in all white dresses and white hats.

A former landlord of mine hustles by. Years ago, he evicted Dianne and the boys and me from an apartment on South Street, not some six or seven blocks from the church. He gave us the boot because Andrew (then 3 or 4) played with neighborhood children -- black children. The landlord didn't want "that kind" around his property. I wonder what he thinks about casting his vote in a house of worship founded by slaves. I wonder if realizes the irony. I doubt it.

If you haven't voted, and the polls are still open, I encourage you, no, I implore you, go vote.

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