Why I’m still voting.

Living in Georgia during an election year wasn’t previously stressful like it is now.  Prior to 2018, Georgia’s political leanings were fairly reliable.  I had a general idea of which candidates would win and what color Georgia would be on maps when it popped up during news segments.  I also knew from much earlier in my life that votes could be recounted and people would feel their votes didn’t matter.  I was old enough to see things begin to fall apart in 2000 when it took weeks to finalize who would be sworn into office in January of 2001.  Just a few months later, I performed for George W. Bush with other members of our school’s show choir at what was formerly known as Zephyr Field.  I recognized that some people called him Mr. President and others called him Mr. Bush, and I knew that he was not claimed by all.  During the fall of my first year away from New Orleans, I watched the Twin Towers fall.  I said good-bye to friends who vowed to serve this new commander in chief.  Though some came back home, I feel those farewells were permanent.  A person is never the same after war and the people I knew died inside along with the people they killed.  The bitterness and jadedness I saw in December of 2000 made a lot more sense through the filter of my altered friends.  The pleading phone call from one in 2004, begging me to vote for Kerry—- I get it now.  I could have voted then, but I told him I didn’t know enough to vote either way.  Jump forward just over a decade and I was him, pleading with my own friends to vote for Clinton, arguing that voting for her was obviously better, because how could they be ok with risking someone in office who joked about assault, made fun of people with disabilities, and was hateful to immigrants?  When she lost, I was devastated and I began to lose hope.  Having a child who believes in the dream of democracy does a lot to keep that hope from fading to the point of no return.  Having a child who listens and calls a president a bully is convicting and a catalyst.  Having a child who asks you to vote because he can’t, to help someone who is a bully leave and someone who might be kinder come in— well, it’s hard to argue with that.  When Warnock and Ossoff ran for election a couple of years ago, my son asked to go to a rally.  He wanted to see what it meant to support a candidate.  We loaded up in my truck and parked by rows and rows of other people for an outdoor rally during the early stages of the pandemic.  We listened to Ossoff and Warnock on the truck’s radio, broadcast on a station for all to hear.  My son asked me why them and not others and I answered as truthfully as I could.  I told him that I don’t have the money to help as many people in our state and country who need help, but I believe that helping is the right thing to do.  I can vote for people who will be more likely to make changes in laws to provide more support and more access and they can help in ways that I can’t.  I took my son with me to vote and he saw the color on the maps change later, and for a moment, I saw what my vote looked like to him.  Unsurprisingly, that same son asked to go to a rally again this year.  Unlike before, this rally was small.  It was still outdoors, but we could walk and visit and meet people.  We were less than twenty feet from the candidates.  We saw their smiles and we heard their words with clarity.  As my son stood beside me, I saw him begin to tear up, asking me why the words about voter suppression sounded like what he had read in his books about the Civil Rights movement.  When I told him that in a lot of ways, it was just like what he had read about, he begged me to vote and asked if he could write to the lawmakers and ask them to lower the voting age so he could vote too.  His belief in the right to vote and his desire to vote and help propel change is one of the strongest motivators I’ve ever felt in my life.  My child genuinely believes that I can do something good and that faith in me is a powerful burden, but a noble one.  I have to believe my vote matters, because believing that it does and acting like it does by getting up and voting is what makes voting possible.  More people have come out to vote early in Georgia than ever before.  I have no idea what the map will look like a week from today.  I have no confidence in anything regarding that.  I do have confidence in the example my son sees when he sees me.  At the most recent rally, he heard Warnock tell a story about watching Ketanji Brown Jackson become part of the U.S. Supreme Court alongside Ossoff and Vice-President Harris.  He shared that Harris told him and Ossoff that they needed to write a letter to someone to mark this amazing day, to record it in a way meaningful to them, what it meant in their lives at this moment.  Warnock wrote to his daughter, just a few years younger than my son, about how Jackson has skin like hers and hair like hers and the vice-president looks like her too, that she shouldn’t give up, because fighting for what is right takes time.  By the end of the story, my son was burying his face in my shoulder and looked up with a bright red nose and a fully wet face and said, “Happy tears Momma, just happy.” When you vote, and I hope that you will, I ask you to consider what children will think of you.  Will they believe you voted in a manner that helped people love each other?  Will they believe you tried to care for people, to protect them and give them aid and dignity?  Will they believe you voted for people who will harm to gain or maintain power or for people willing to lose elections for democracy?  I am tired, but my son is not yet fatigued of this country or disbelieving of its merit and potential.  He deserves my faith and effort, just as parents decades ago believed their children were deserving.  Believe in the happy tears to come and fight for more letters with more stories of the good that comes from using your voice.

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