I voted in my first presidential election in 1976. I proudly cast my vote for Jimmy Carter for President. I have voted in EVERY election (in which I was eligible to vote) since that time. I have taken taxicabs and public transportation to my polling place; I have begged and cajoled friends and relatives to take me to my polling place; I have driven through blinding rain and other inclement weather to get to my polling place; and I have stood in very long lines to cast my vote (even when I had to wear a back brace to do so).
I have enthusiastically supported my favorite candidates with donations to their campaigns — with their bumper stickers on my car — with their yard signs in my yard — with their T-shirts as part of my wardrobe. (In the 2008 and 2012 elections, there were so many bumper stickers on my car that my friends (and a few frenemies) referred to it as the “Obamamobile.”
But something has been different this presidential election cycle. I have not been my usual outspoken, politically involved self. I have been asking myself what is wrong with me? Where are my bumper stickers? Where are my yard signs? Where are my T-shirts? Where is my enthusiasm?
I know how much is at stake.
I know that the prospect of the Republican Party controlling the White House, Congress, and thereby the Supreme Court is both frightening and unthinkable.
I know that on every issue that matters to me — be it one of social justice or economic theory, the Republican party has “nothing for me.”
I know (in fact, I have always known) all of these things, but I have still been struggling to motivate myself. I have allowed the fact that I am not overly excited about either candidate for the Democratic nomination to outweigh my knowledge about the importance of this election.
About two weeks ago, however, I went down to south Georgia to attend a funeral. While I was there, I walked on the land that my ancestors, full of rejoicing over being freed from slavery, worked so hard to acquire. I sat in the church that, while it has been remodeled and rebuilt, my ancestors helped to found and build, even donating land to be used as the church cemetery.
I listened to relatives, who (because of various health conditions) had been deemed uninsurable in the past, rejoice that they now have health insurance. I listened to my young cousins talk about their dreams of continuing their education as they worried about the amount of their student loans. I listened to my relatives, some of whom who are single mothers, talk about the difficulty of making ends meet when they are earning only a little bit more than minimum wage. I listened to my female relatives whose access to reproductive health care is being threatened.
Finally, I remembered the words of one of my personal heroes, Representative John Lewis:
I was beaten, my skull was fractured, and I was arrested more than forty times so each and every one of us can register to vote. Do your part.
Even though there was never a question as to whether I would cast my vote, I came to the realization that it was my own unrecognized and unacknowledged set of privileges that allowed me to even think that I should not be fully involved and engaged in this election cycle. I came home feeling irritated with myself for having allowed so much time to pass without being fully involved and engaged and inspired to become fully involved and engaged.
So, I have reached out to my contacts in the Democratic party. I have signed up to help with voter registration drives. I have pulled out my election walking shoes so that I can begin canvassing neighborhoods. I have submitted leave requests so that I will be able to drive people to the polls. I have increased my monthly donations to the Democratic party, in general, and the candidate(s) of my choice, in particular. I have requested and ordered bumper stickers, yard signs, and T-shirts.
I have recaptured by enthusiasm. I am doing my part. I urge you to do yours.