Tuesday, October 9, 2012

in which she votes

A photo of the mayor of Hyattsville addressing a 1913 Woman Suffrage meeting
(donated by Harris and Ewing to the Library of Congress; copyright expired)

Today I submitted my absentee ballot. Montana, the state of my last residency, allows electronic submission, and so I made my way through the questions, clicked on the proper ovals, and sent the document into the election official. 

I teared up as I finished this small but heavy task. 

My hope is not in governments: my dreams and desires for this broken-apart world imagine far greater changes than any political party working within the system could ever accomplish. In fact, part of me longs for the purity of opting out of any participation in this political system at all. But I am always already implicated. I bear responsibility by the accident of being born into the American Empire near the end of the twentieth century. 

And I bear a particular privilege. The photo above reminds us that it's not even been a full century since women gained the right to vote in the United States. My right, my privilege, my responsibility, and ultimately my choice to vote all grow out of this history. How dare I turn aside from that longed-for opportunity to have voice within the decisions of a major nation? Especially as I hear more and more stories of individuals who should have the right to vote but will be blocked by bizarre identification laws? 

The photo above also reminds us that just as religion is used today to support both sides of political arguments, the Bible was used by both anti-and pro-women's suffrage groups as evidence for their positions. I vote based on the deep sense of the "word" that "the Lord giveth" my heart--and so does my friend who chooses a different candidate. But can we reconcile these differences without ugliness? My tears as I clicked through my ballot had little to do with homesickness. It had to do with war and violence and the fact that I inescapably benefit from the oppression of others. And it had to do with the rhetorical nastiness that has characterized all the elections of my adulthood, and especially among those with religious convictions.

Today, voting almost a month early, I did a bit of mourning. But I want to know about the sparks of hope. Where have you seen them? Where are you seeing them? 

Tell me your good stories, friends. 


  1. My story of hope: The Colombian government is about to start peace talks with the left-wing FARC rebels, after 50 years of conflict. Peace talks were attempted before, & failed, but the signs now are very hopeful. The current president (whom I did not support because he had been defense minister in the repressive prior regime) succeeded in promoting a law for reparation to victims last year--specifically for returning land to displaced campesinos. It's not enough by any means, but it's a step in the right direction.

    Oh, also the general who was ultimately responsible for the displacement of my beloved Cacarica community in the NW of Colombia was recently tried & sentenced to 25 years, specifically for the brutal murder of a young Afro-Colombian man--an atrocity that I assumed would forever go unanswered. This has simply astounded me.

    It's a different country of course, but it's sending signs that voting & protest & civil disobedience can all be part of positive change.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. This is absolutely beautiful.