I walk everywhere. There are two reasons for that. One is that I don't have a car. The other is that I live within walking distance of most of what I need. Today, I walked to the voting booth. It was about 9:00 in the morning when I strolled up the bike path in Northampton, Massachusetts. The temperature was in the low thirties and the yellow leaves fell slowly off the trees lining the way. To my right was the Barrett Street Swamp. It is very visible now through the bare November trees. The water below the reeds was not frozen but it wasn't far off. It was silent and still and seemed thicker than summer water.
When I reached the Jackson Street overpass, I left the bike path and took to the sidewalk that lead to the Jackson Street School which has been my voting place for the last six years. Inside, I passed the little bake sale table and entered the gymnasium. When I used to go into gyms it was because I was about to run around. Now it's to vote. Everything in elementary schools is very small and makes me feel like a giant in my big, dumb leather jacket.
I entered the gym and saw a small line of people at a table that said Voter Sign-In. I stood in the line for a moment and then the women in front of me said to nobody in particular, "I don't have time for this!". No one responded. She turned to look up at me. I sized her up to be probably 35 or so, maybe younger. She said to me, "My vote won't even count anyway."
I said, "There are only five people in front of you. It won't take long. You came all this way."
She replied, "I'm voting for Mitt Romney. Wouldn't you rather I left anyway? "
I said, "Of course not!"
The woman in front of her turned around and said, "You're voting for Romney?!". She was gray but I would say only in her fifties or so. She looked nice, I was waiting for her to say something in a kidding humorous way similar to how one would normally talk to another human. Instead, she rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust and turned back around.
The first woman looked up at me again, "I'm voting for Romney and republican straight down the line. I'm not racist, I just like the other guy. I don't hate woman, I just like the other guy."
"OK", I said. Then I noticed I was in the wrong line and I walked off to the correct table for my precinct. I gave my name and address and was handed my ballot sheets, I went to the booth, filled out the ballot, handed it in, checked out, and got my sticker. Easy.
Back outside, I strolled again through the chilly autumn morning and mulled over the strange encounter with the two disrespectful woman. Eventually, I formulated what I wished I said. I wished I said, so they both could hear me, "If you truly believe in a representative democracy and a popular vote, which everyone seems to claim they do, then you would never hope that another citizen doesn't vote. Instead you would have faith that the majority would pick the best candidate in the election, regardless of who you preferred. That's the whole point of having an election, faith that the majority knows best. So, of course, I want you to vote, you silly Romney supporter, just like I want you to vote, you snotty Obama supporter. By the way, thanks to both of you for so accurately displaying the common narratives about the personalities of the parties. I thought it was all just made up on TV but you two stepped right in and confirmed everything in a thirty-second candid encounter. Now, both of you sign in, vote, and instantly nullify each others voice. It's almost as though you don't exist."
|My path to the polls.|