I am moved

Partisan politics aside, pumpkins aside, watching this grassroots effort, this passion and unity has been so touching and refreshing for me. I am frequently teary eyed lately. Let me tell you about the one and only time I got to vote.

I was born in a country where the majority only recently got the vote. On that first free and fair historic election, I had just turned 18 and I was eligible to vote for the first time too. On that day, when I drove in a comfortable car with my mother and waited in a short queue to cast my ballot, I watched as thousands of my countrymen walked great distances, rode in suffocatingly crowded busses, and stood in the dusty heat for hours for that privilege. The image of some of the oldest amongst them stays with me the most clearly. Sitting, shuffling, hot, exhausted for hour upon hour with radiant smiles on their faces. The image of them weeping, jubilant even slightly incredulous, after they had the opportunity to make their voice heard for the first time.

In the first election I experienced here, I was shocked, saddened and honestly, disgusted by an apathy that was marked in contrast. Many people just did not care about the election. I saw a lot of the same for the next two elections. I heard, "I'm not very political" from more people then not, almost as if that was a virtue. I have always wondered what this claim, "I'm not political" means. Do we all have to be pundits? No. Do we all have an incredible responsibility to do all we can to understand the issues, to check the facts rather then just listen to the politicians, to vote our conscience and encourage others to do the same? To care.To care deeply? About something that will affect every one of us, every single day, change the course of history, change the world? Absolutely! Absolutely.

Seeing some of that spirit, that drive, the excitement, the hope and the gratitude for the voting process is exhilarating for me. The understanding of what a profound opportunity and responsibility it is to vote your conscience seems to be stronger now then I have seen since moving to this country. People care. And it moves me. I hope it moves you too.

May 10, 1994 South Africa.

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Samantha said...

I got to vote in that election "long distance"--I was living in Seattle at the time, and my dad came to pick me up from college and took me to the county courthouse (I think) in downtown Seattle, where we both got to vote (my sister G was ~6 weeks too young!). I remember the ballot well--it had photos of the party leaders and also the party symbols, so even if you couldn't read, you could recognize the person/party you wanted to vote for. And it had big boxes for you to mark next to your party of choice. It was so colorful and it made me so happy to vote. Now I vote by mail for the US elections (no "I voted" sticker for me), completely filling in little ovals next to boring-looking text... started working on my ballot over the weekend! But, I'm still glad I get to vote.

nyn said...

Love this!! So well said. The pictures are truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing such an awesome story.