Vote by voting or not showing

I will never forget the first time I voted in the United States. It was November, 2008, and the citizens were deciding who would take the Oval Office for the next four years.

I woke early and dressed carefully, paying attention to the reverence I felt for this special day. You see, as a Permanent Legal Resident, I’d had the responsibility of paying taxes for years, but I’d yet to experience the privilege of voting that comes with the promise of citizenship. I could hardly contain my excitement.

As I neared the polling location and saw the lines of people out front, to the side, and around the back of the building, I could hardly believe my eyes.  Fighting back emotions, I took a moment to consider the significance of this day.  I reflected on how well I’d done on my citizenship test – earning a 100% I might add – and how very proud I was to take the oath at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential museum.

Nervously, I checked my purse again, ensuring my identification was in order. Of course it was, it was right where I’d left it the last time I’d checked. Geez.

The mood of the people was palpable and so much, so very much, was riding on this day.

Taking my place in line, I noticed how most folks seemed patient, how many shifted their weight from one foot to another, and that quite a few passed the time chit-chatting with others nearby.

Roughly four people ahead of me, there he stood:  Mr. Notice-Me.  Mr. Impatient.  Mr. tap-tap-tap his foot so everyone around would know how important his time was. As if ours wasn’t.

He did his best to engage others in his commentary about the inefficiency of the system, how sorely lacking our Township for not having “enough” voting booths, at the fact that many of the poll workers were pensioners who moved slower than molasses-in-January.

I saw him trying to catch my eye and suck me into the conversation; I looked everywhere but at him. I didn’t want his negativity to taint my special day.

Finally, he couldn’t take my silence any longer and said – loud enough for many to hear – “You’re so quiet, how can you be so content just standing there?”

This time, this time I looked him dead on, smiled warmly and said: “Sir, I’ve waited years to stand in this line. You see, I’m a new citizen and this is my first time voting here and I will happily stand all night and into tomorrow if I have to.”

There was a sea of delighted “Congratulations” and “Wow, that’s awesome!” comments that surged around me.  But I don’t mind telling you, it was with pleasure that I accepted his hand and his humble words of “Welcome, point well taken.”  He was oddly quiet for the balance of our time together.

In May of 2008, seventy-eight of us (from thirty-four countries) took the oath of allegiance to the United States of America and stepped forward as brand new citizens right here in Grand Rapids, MI.  It signified the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

We’ve got 60 more days of promises, campaign ads, documentaries and debates to slog through. But no matter that, I will happily take my place in line come Election Day.

Will you?

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
―Larry J. Sabato, “Pendulum Swing”

Categories: Attitude, Determination, Elections, Forgiveness, Joy, Opinion, Uncategorized, Vote | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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35 thoughts on “Vote by voting or not showing

  1. Bravo, MJ! Bravo!!

  2. Smiling big time at your new header. I love that wonderful old car!
    {…Now I’ll go read the post!}

    • D, I had a feeling you’d like it. Now just picture a little girl and her Border Collie “driving” it in their imaginations!!

  3. Cheers, MJ, cheers! What a refreshing perspective.

    • Thank you, Georgette. I will never take voting for granted and am glad you can see things from my viewpoint after reading this post. Bests to you! MJ

  4. Clicked over from seeing that Lenore had posted this on FB–so well written! Thank you! We lived in Australia for a short time and they were so amazed at our system and how we were not required to vote–that it was a choice—and it is just that —a choice. And how privileged we are to have that —good on ya for this post!!!!

  5. Okay you rock. I had a similar experience to yours but it wasn’t about voting. Anyway, yes, I will be voting. I always figured if I didn’t I couldn’t “legally” complain about the results! 😉 I think this is one of those posts that ought to get “Freshly Pressed”.

    • aww, well that is very kind of you. Yes, if you don’t vote you shouldn’t be able to complain about the results however you and I both know that is not how it goes – Cheers! MJ

  6. Wonderful post, MJ! Your words should really “hit home” with all of us who take voting for granted. Recently, at my routine dental appointment, the dental assistant told us that she was from the Phillipines, had been here 14 years, but this would be her first time to vote. She was SO excited but also very nervous. She said she desperately wanted to make the right decision for our country.

    • Thank you, Dianna. How exciting for your Dental Asst friend; I look back on that day with great reverence and even have a picture of me at the sign that says “Vote Here” (no pictures allowed inside). All of the local poll works know me as “that new citizen gal” and every time I vote we chat about it. I grin every time and so do they 🙂 MJ

  7. Wonderful post, with a beautiful point, well-taken 🙂

  8. Beaming with pride at your patriotism. I love your enthusiasm and you are absolutely right, it’s an amazing experience to stand in that line and have your say in the voting booth. I can’t wait to get home and do it myself 🙂

    • Thank you, Sandi. I beam, too. I beamed that day I took the oath (and then cried), I beamed at my citizenship party that summer, and I beam my way through every voting line. I get to the office with my “I voted” sticker on and beam my way through that place, too. I know there are some who won’t get what all my fuss is about but I am so glad that you do. Welcome home … soon!! MJ

  9. This is a great post and such an awesome story. I’m happy you responded like that and that he had the humility to get the point and answer the way he did.

    I’ll definitely be voting this year, and it’s a big event for me this time because it’s the first time I’ll be voting physically in the U.S. The past 2 elections I voted in (the 2 since I became old enough to vote), I was still living overseas so I was casting my vote as an absentee ballot, through the mail. I still voted, but I didn’t have the experience of going to the voting station. This is my first year doing that since I’m living back in the States now, and I’m very excited about the experience!

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story, and I hope you have a lovely weekend! 🙂

    • I’m with you, Dounia, voting via absentee ballot is just not the same as it is in person. Thank you for sharing your story and I am excited to have you back in the US to vote in person. You’re right, too, I am glad Mr. Impatient found the grace to respond the way he did. It could have turned another direction and while I am glad it didn’t, I was prepared to take him on if I had to. Bests! MJ

  10. It is so easy to take these rights for granted when we have always had them. How wonderful to experience the excitement you felt through your own words. I hope everyone who is ambivalent about the voting process will read your post, and go out and vote – cheerfully! Hooray. Love this.

    • Thank you, Renee — that’s exactly my point – we shouldn’t take any of our rights for granted. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend 🙂 MJ

  11. I have a colleague that just became a citizen at the beginning of this year, so she is very excited to have the chance to have her voice heard.

  12. Wonderful post. A good reminder not to take for granted one of our most precious opportunities.

  13. Reblogged this on Stumbling into Grace with SPTP2011 and commented:
    Please Vote! No matter if you are Democrat or Republican or Independant
    Remember it is a HONOR to vote

  14. cooper

    Great perspective on something most of us take for granted. For me, the responsibility in voting ends at showing up. It starts by doing the necessary homework and not relying on the “promises, campaign ads, documentaries and debates” and all the other media spin. I like to know how these folks vote day-to-day…or even how often they are not around to vote. Which bills they supported/rejected…do they take a consistent stand on issues or fluctuate with the tide. It takes some effort and not everyone has the time or energy. And sometimes weeding thru the spin to get to the facts is a daunting task, so much so that it saps folk’s energy and raises the apathy. I can relate to that and find myself feeling that way from time to time. But these days some of the candidates vying for office are truley frightening. I could not, in good conscience, stand by and not cast a vote.

    • I agree with you; it is difficult to slog through the b.s. and the spin and find your way to the truth … but, like you, I start with the record of the candidate. And I do this for local politics just as much. As I tell my friends, not voting is a vote for “the other guy” – whomever that is in your situation! Great to hear from you, Coop. MJ

  15. you rock MJ! so, when can I sign up and take your class on dealing with people again? 😉 you know you could easily do something on line.:-)

    • Well .. I was fortunate he had the good sense to back off but I don’t mind telling you that my heart was racing and I was prepared to take him on if I had to. People like that can be very difficult and certainly unpredictable. I have learned to bite my tongue and think about what I want to say so that when the timing presents itself, if it does, I am ready. Thank you DM. MJ

  16. Bravo!! Well spoken! And how cool that guy was big enough to shake your hand and settle down. Thanks for letting me experience through your words and eyes, the priviledge we so often take for granted.

    • Thank you; it could have ended differently. I tend to have a strong “feeling” about people & something told me this guy just wanted to be heard. I didn’t shame him, I just answered his question thoughtfully and loud enough to be heard … Thank you for experiencing my experience – now go vote! 🙂 MJ

  17. Oh MJ, if only those who were granted the privilege to vote merely by being born here could share in your enthusiasm… It is said that a people get the leaders they ‘deserve’. I agree. American elections have notoriously low turn out rates which is truly sad. Thanks for this uplifting piece on your citizenship! Too bad civics classes were jettisoned from the classrooms 😦

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