Why Vote
Friday October 10th 2008, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life,Politics

prickly subject

Two childhood memories:

President Johnson threw a party on the White House lawn for all the children of all the US Senators.  We were the grandchildren of one, and we lived close by in Bethesda; we got to go.   The crowd of kids walked in a careful line through a small part of the White House first, and just before we exited into the Rose Garden area, we were handed an extremely cool official plastic white pen with blue and red retractible colors and the words “The White House” printed on the side.  You better believe I took that one to my elementary school to show off.

There was a small Ferris wheel set up on the expanse of lawn, which looked a lot bigger as a kid than it does to me now, and rides on the small ponies being walked in circles.  No way no how was I getting on that Ferris wheel, but I was in heaven with those horses.  I’m sure there was cotton candy and the like, but I remember nothing about the food–just the fact that I could ride all afternoon, and did, and only briefly once did anybody tell me I had to get off to let some other kid have a turn. They had enough ponies to make every child who wanted one happy for just about as long as they wanted.

I came home and told my mom how cool I thought President Johnson was, and that I hoped he would run and win again.

I saw the look on my mother’s face in speechless response, and had no idea what to make of it, other than that, clearly, this was not the great desire of her heart.  But I wanted more pony rides!

Memory number two:

It was the Fourth of July, the late 60’s, and our baby boomer family with six young kids was going with my aunt and uncle and their little ones to watch the fireworks together on the Mall in downtown Washington, DC, the grassy stretch that runs between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  The crowd was already huge in the late afternoon as we arrived, the best spots taken hours earlier and more people pouring in by the minute.  Soon there was hardly room to move.  There was a sit-in of war protesters going on a little further down, with families on their picnic blankets edging right up against ours and a kind of a temporary no-man’s land in between us and the protesters that was rapidly filling up. There were a lot of people there. There was a strong smoke smell going on over thataway that I didn’t recognize at that age; it wasn’t cigarettes.

A number of Park Police on horseback started an ambling pace towards the protesters.  I noticed–I liked the horses.

And the protesters started running.  En masse.  But there was simply no room.

My aunt’s youngest was an infant, and in the sudden terrifying confusion of the stampede, there was a moment of instant clarity: she had pulled a young man down to the ground in front of her and was screaming into his face at the top of her mother-bear lungs as the surge of feet continued around and over and straight through us, “YOU STEPPED ON MY *BABY*!!!!”

He was suddenly more scared of her than the cops or horse hooves and wrestled himself away from her and took off amongst the others still running through our picnic blanket.

That was it. All the adults announced we were out of there, and while the older kids were half-protesting, what, no fireworks, it was a relief to leave. I’m sure we had seen enough fireworks already in my aunt’s face. The baby was okay.

mail-in ballot

Watching McCain stepping back out of reach and deliberately away from Obama’s outstretched hand and smile, it hit me that here is a man who does not know how to be friends with his friends. How on earth then can he wage peace in an unfriendly world using the skills of diplomacy he does not have?  “Bomb bomb bomb Iran.  Who cares? The Iranians?”  (I’ve seen the video, sir, it was not the one-on-one joke you claimed in the debates, it was before a crowd.)

Imagine the good we could do if Iranian parents (and others), their leadership aside, felt that the mighty US wanted to make the world a better place for their children, too, rather than they worry that our leader wants to trample them personally out of mob-like fear.  Imagine the American President telling them that he, too, had gone if only briefly to a public school in a Muslim country; that he knew personally that there were dedicated teachers there and here’s how he’d like to help them improve their educational resources.

Amy Goodman, the syndicated columnist, wrote this article after being violently assaulted by the police for trying to interview protesters at the Republican National Convention.  Along with her fellow reporters, her press credentials were ripped off her neck for telling the cops who she was and who her fellows were, and then *she* was charged for it and hauled off, along with her fellows, who were bleeding. They were told after they were beaten that they had the right to cover the police’s work only if they were embedded with them, ie only if they went where they were allowed to go and saw what they were allowed to see.

Alright. Voters?  We have been through this before.  We thought Simon and Garfunkel’s protests, “I said be careful, his bowtie is really a camera” were quaint old songs now.  Back to the future?

Or do we choose a better one?

My ballot says mark it with blue or black ink only, don’t use the red.


23 Comments so far
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“Imagine the good”… yes, Sister. I do. Every single day. Hopefully, someday soon there will be enough humans to make it ‘there’.

Comment by marianne 10.10.08 @ 2:34 pm

Yes, yes, yes! Trampling others in fear is not a good thing, and yet it seems increasingly to be the foundation of our foreign policy, not to mention our internal class policies. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

Comment by Jocelyn 10.10.08 @ 3:29 pm

Very well said. Wow. Thank you.

Comment by Eleanor (undeadgoat) 10.10.08 @ 4:16 pm

I heard some distressing information on the radio this morning about certain campaign rallies. At one time the period of the campaign didn’t seem long to me. However, when a campaign reaches a certain level of hateful speech; it’s gone on too long already.

Comment by RobinM 10.10.08 @ 4:48 pm

Imagine the good. My foster son is the General who took the Idaho National Guard troops to Iraq. Among other efforts, his units asked folks at home to send school supplies. When I sent packages, I often thought that maybe some child would remember that Americans gave him crayons or candy or a sweater and that might prevent him from throwing a grenade at my son.

Comment by sherry in idaho 10.10.08 @ 6:47 pm

I’m with you, Alyson! Way to go!

Comment by Abby 10.10.08 @ 6:48 pm

Sherry, that’s wonderful that you and he have been doing that–thank you for sending those!

Comment by AlisonH 10.10.08 @ 11:17 pm

I am praying for you all! Being in another countray, the only country in the world where it is compulsary to vote, I embrace the privilege to vote and would do so whether I had to or not. I often pray more Americans will vote and bring about change for themselves and for others. Thank you for what you have written. I don’t think Americans realise that when they vote it isn’t just for America, your allied countries are affected too. Choose a president who has peace on his mind and we will all benefit from that peace.

Comment by Vicki 10.11.08 @ 4:13 am

I am very afraid for us. Our country has turned into a nation of greedy consumers who fear the very people who make our inflated lifestyle possible…and everyone else who looks a little different. I’m in a red state with little hope of turning blue, but I’ll vote Go-Bama anyway. God help us. Thank you for reaching out every day to the best in us all.

Comment by judy 10.11.08 @ 5:48 am

I’m with you–I say we change for the better or we will perish. I live in a state (AlObama) where enlightenment is rare and there is no chance of change; therefore, it is up to other parts of the country to save us from the grab-what-you-can-and-run forces that have been in the process of dismantling our country for the past 25 or 30 years. We must save this country for our children, grandchildren and generations we will never see–just as the people before us handed down our country in trust for us to borrow and pass on in perpetuity.

Comment by Cissy 10.11.08 @ 8:22 am

You and lots of others were victimized by a broadcasting soundbite. You saw a few seconds of what seemed like a McCain snub. The complete recording of the event shows quite a different story. If I had my way we’d have a constitutional amendment preventing ALL state primaries before the Fourth of July. The long campaign is insulting, wasteful, annoying, debilitating, and obscene. As a reasonably liberal registered Republican,I have voted for many Democrats. Lyndon Johnson was not my first.Senator Alan Bible from Nevada was.The last two were for Senator Barbara Mikulski from Maryland and the mayor of Salt Lake.(For your readers, it is obvious I have voted in three states.)

Comment by Dad 10.11.08 @ 8:51 am

Thank you Alison for your very timely and thoughtful post. Dad is also very right that the campaign goes on much too long and has become so full of rage. Here’s hoping we can all breathe a sigh of relief on Nov 5th!

Comment by Joan 10.11.08 @ 9:18 am

Dad, I quite agree with you that the campaigns are far too long and degrading. With much love, I will ask, do you remember the story of the art collector in your “Fabulous Frauds” book who could never be swindled by fakers as long as his deaf wife was alive to check them out first? Let me hasten to add, I’m not saying anyone’s being swindled here; I’m simply stating my own strengths.

I have carefully watched every debate, trying to get context to the many print interviews I’ve read (heck, I’m an election junkie over here) and to find for myself, with an open mind, a feel for who these two men really are. To hear the tones of voice they use, towards each other, towards the moderator, towards their questioners; the words they choose to express themselves, whether in respect or rudeness; to see what their body language conveys. When McCain said in the first debate that he knew “what was best for America,” he blinked three times just on the word “best.”

I like Obama better, clearly, but I wanted to be reassured that should he not win I would still feel the country was in good hands. I’d like to feel that way; I do not. I love you dearly, but I assure you I have not been victimized. I did see the whole context of that moment, and I saw it in the context of many such moments; I was still watching that screen after the debate was over specifically because I wanted to see as much as I could of how they both acted when the focus was less on them and more on the audience. I simply used that snip here to illustrate the overall picture of what I see.

Comment by AlisonH 10.11.08 @ 9:25 am

I remember that day well. In defense of the park police, some of the protesters were wielding pipes, which made the stampede really scary. But Joyce is 5’10” and well proportioned. I suspect she looked about 8 feet tall in her anger. The college boy actually apologized before he took off.

Comment by Mom 10.11.08 @ 9:31 am

I loved this post and comments. You know, but maybe your commenters don’t, that I live in Europe. I sent this note to a friend recently, so excuse me for quoting myself:

“I might have mentioned historian Simon Schama to you a while ago. He’s got a new series starting soon and this week’s Radio Times magazine features an interview. He’s made two interesting remarks. ‘Sarah Palin makes George Bush look like Karl Marx’ and when asked if it is in Britain’s interests that Obama wins he replies ‘No, unless you have President Palin a month after McCain is inaugurated.’ ”

I prefer, and have already voted for Obama. McCain could have governed from the center with Lieberman but Palin has turned theater into farce.

Prickly, indeed.

Comment by LynnM 10.11.08 @ 12:12 pm

I have lived through enough difficult political times that I’m a Hillary supporter voting for Obama. I am tired and want to see this country regain its respect in the eyes of the world.

Frightening…yesterday I was at my little local store and the clerk who I have spoken with many times, mentioned that when Bush was running she thought she was going to have to quit her job because the owners were so Pro-Bush. Now, she tells me it is not much better.

As I park my car beside one with a McCain sticker, I wonder what it is that appeals to them. Can they not look at the total picture instead of finding one cause only to rally behind?

I am voting but afraid to wake up the next day. Afraid that many who say they are not racist, really are and will vote for MCain as a result. The race really is quite close in spite of what the media says.

Comment by Joansie 10.12.08 @ 10:20 am

I hope you don’t mind my being frank: I think you are the coolest thing since sliced bread! 🙂

Comment by Michelle 10.12.08 @ 11:13 am

Sorry, Alison, but you won’t catch me voting for a Democrat. Redistribution of wealth is not my thing. I want as little government as possible.

However, I too am very sad that Lieberman is not McCain’s running mate, it would more closely fit my social leanings. Oh, and has anyone else noticed how Obama’s accent has changed? He’s now dropping his g’s (in words ending in “ing”) a la Jesse Jackson. A not so subtle appeal to the masses. Heck, I guess they all do it, eh?

I am also appalled at the amount of money being expended on these campaigns, particulary by Obama, who is doing more to buy the election than any of the GOP. I find it particularly distressing when it’s the candidate who’s always talking about people with no money who need help who is spending literally millions and millions of dolalrs when it could be used to help others.

So let’s do as your dad suggested, push for a 6-week only campaign period as I believe they have in England, put a firm cap on the spending, and stick to the darned issues. I don’t want to hear about your opponent, I just want to hear about what you are planning to do, and how.

But do VOTE. It’s what keeps us ticking.

Comment by Sue 10.13.08 @ 9:42 am

Ah, but you see, that’s precisely what the Republican-pushed deregulation has done: it has redistributed the wealth of many to the wealthiest few, who somehow feel entitled to it, and has put far more governmental debt on our children’s backs.

With the fallout of deregulated Enron, my utility bill hit nearly 900 mind-blowing dollars for one month last December and I’d like to talk to those who pocketed the change. (This is also why we’re installing solar.)

I have no problem whatsoever with Obama having ten dollar donations from millions of people like me and using it: that’s free speech on our part. I spoke with my ten dollars: I wanted to own a part of his success and of our new and better image to the whole world. I have never made any kind of a political contribution in my life, but this one felt vital to me.

With John McCain’s health plan, I will have zero medical insurance. My husband’s company will drop coverage–they’ve come as close to doing so already as they dare, and he is not a low-level employee–and we will be left to try to find an individual plan. There is no plan on earth that would take me on willingly. The insurance we do have now was not accepted by the hospital my daughter had to go to when the student health center thought she had a pulmonary embolism. The insurance we had four years ago and eight years ago would have been–but it got dropped by the husband’s employer after their CEO absconded with millions while his company was foundering. This is progress?

Comment by AlisonH 10.13.08 @ 10:53 am

I hear you and agree, Alison. Oh, and I’ve been right on the Mall for the fireworks, and I know that blanket of people very well. It IS scary scary to watch a stampede there…and that’s sometimes what I think is happening in the US. A stampede against reason. I have no problem with asking everybody to do a bit (as Obama asks) to make this country succeed. I have a big problem with “everyone needs to cope with the cuts I’ll make” McCain approach.

On another topic entirely, thanks for your big heart and kind words today. It has really comforted me no end.

Comment by Joanne 10.13.08 @ 12:12 pm

Thanks Allison for the respectful representation of your views. I hear that so seldom during this campaign – from the media, co-workers and family. I think it is that lack of respect that adds to the distress. Have we as a nation lost our ability to diagree respectfully? I don’t have TV because the constant barrage of mudslinging is so disheartening. I find that I get more information from print media and NPR. I did however watch the 2nd presidential debate last week. Was I the only one that was bothered that neither candidate followed the rules upon which both had agreed prior to the debate? It looked like Tom Brokaw was herding cats trying to get them both to comply with the time limits. To me, that spoke volumes about both candidates and their integrity and their egos. It was diappointing. But, that being said, I wholeheartedly urge all women to vote. Has anyone seen the info that has floated around the web about the suffrage movement? It is awesome to behold. Our right to vote is a privilige that women before us have paid for and not a right to be taken lightly.

Comment by Tammy Morrow 10.13.08 @ 8:36 pm

Politically I tend to be a fencesitting moderate and have voted in the past for moderates from either party. On healthcare, however, I have been slowly shifting further left.

Upon sober reflection and a lot of consideration, I think that some form of socialized medicine is not only inevitable but desirable. The idea of paying for routine healthcare via an insurance-for-profit model is badly broken. It works *only* when it is not possible to know the the health costs for any given individual. No insurance company wants to take on customers who will cost more than they generate in revenue. Moreover, they are strongly motivated to exclude people with chronic illnesses- not only will they cost money, but they will drive up premiums for their other customers, making their product less attractive. They aren’t evil- they’re in business. They have a responsibility to their shareholders to make money.

And even then, the insurance company’s strongest incentives are to deny claims, not provide a high quality of care. There is *no* circumstance where the health and well-being of the customer can be their primary concern.

Insurance is appropriate for protection from fire, accident, or natural disaster- areas where risk can be assessed but outcomes cannot be predicted with accuracy. But as our ability to diagnose and treat illnesses increases, as our knowledge of the risk factors for health improves, there is less and less chance involved. At the same time, we are developing more and more effective- but expensive- treatments that clearly improve the longevity and quality of life for the people who receive them. And if we are not comfortable with saying that only healthy and or rich people should have healthcare- which I certainly am not- than I think the system has to change.

(And, yes, I’ll be voting for Obama this year, if you hadn’t guessed.)

Comment by RobinH 10.14.08 @ 7:54 am

Well put, Alison. Thanks, as always.

Comment by Jami 10.14.08 @ 11:02 am

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