Taking My Kids to Vote

I took this post down awhile ago for a variety of reasons.  It's political. It's very personal. I felt a bit exposed.

But I just realized my kids have the day off on Election Day. And they will come with me again. And even though they have come with me to vote on many occasions--perhaps most--I will never, not ever, forget the overwhelming emotion I felt taking them with me in 2008.

So I'm putting this back up. I am not tech-savvy enough to know if the comments people posted then will reappear. If they do, great; if not, there is no pressure to comment again.

I remember your words. And I thank you.

From 2008:

I must confess that much of the Inaugural celebration had me in tears. Okay, most of it: The image of our new president and first lady on the steps of the Capitol, President Obama's moving words, Aretha Franklin rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee," faces from around the country, watching, hoping, celebrating. Even the Secret Service officers protecting him evoked my silent, watery-eyed plea: Please, keep him safe.

But what really got to me was the Inaugural Poem  written and read by Elizabeth Alexander. I didn't love the beginning. But then came the part that, had I been standing, would have dropped me to my knees:

"Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of."

And then, shortly, this:

"What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance."

Because that's it, right? Some of our history can only be described as hateful. Most problems of the world can be traced back to indifference, greed, jealousy, hatred. And the solution?

Only the mightiest.


My tears are not tears for me--they are not born of some great hope that Barack Obama is going to make my life better. And as for the country, although I hope he will bring about important change, I labor under no misapprehension that he is The One, our savior, a modern age Messiah.

I cried because of what I brought to the occasion: An undergraduate degree in American History with a concentration in African American Studies, a law degree pursuant to which I studied the legal history of race in our country, and a son who is the same race as our new president.

That an African American man of enormous intellect and talent can ascend to our nation's highest office is no small thing, even now, given what came before. In a country where black people could once lawfully be bought and sold, used and abused, bred and killed, it is no small thing, even now. In a country where, in my parents' lifetime, a little girl named Ruby Bridges went to school under armed guard and surrounded by the voices of white adults shouting at her and threatening her and one even showing her a coffin with a black doll in it, it is no small thing, even now.

Imagine studying all of this with your own African American son. Imagine discussing slavery and sharecropping and segregation and anti-miscegenation laws and then finally, finally, Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, and the Voting Rights Acts, and Selma, and Thurgood Marhshall and Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks and Malcolm X and...Barack Obama.

And imagine taking your son with you into the voting booth, both in the primaries and the general election, and as soon as you enter the school where you are assigned to vote, you look at your son and think, we are voting for an African American for president.

And you thank God that your son has no true idea of how big this is, even now.

When I look at the abilities of this president, I am impressed beyond measure. But I do not think President Obama is perfect, nor have I loved every position he has ever taken. I am realistic about the problems we face and the pressures that will come to bear on the President.

I cried not because of what I hope President Obama can do for me. I cried because of what his election undid for so many. I cried not because I think he is some perfect politician who will magically solve our problems.

In the end, I cried because I believe he can inspire a searching nation to fix itself.


  1. You earned your blog pay today, Jazz.

    I voted for him, and it was the first time in my life I was truly excited about a political candidate, the first time I felt I wasn't merely choosing the least defective of two defects. I already know I'm going to vote for him again. Yes, I wish things had gone a little better for the country these past three years, but I also recognize that he stepped into the hardest job in the world.

    I don't remember if I cried that night. Since I'm pretty leaky, I probably did. A white-majority America placed a black man in the oval office. It still boggles my mind. I have never before or since been more proud of my country.

  2. Thanks for saying that, Steve. It means a lot coming from you.

    I feel the exact same way about the mind-boggling thing. Incredible.

  3. I was just thinking about Steve's point a couple of days ago and remembering a conversation my brother and I had. My bro was so very worried about the expectations that were all going to be dashed to the ground in the harsh edge of reality. And I reminded him to be happy for just that one day, that we were finally able to elect an African American man to the office of President, and how huge that was. And he agreed. And so for that one day we were happy. And there was much weeping and gratitude.

    And now we stand with our hopes dashed and a sense that even Obama in whom we dared to hope, will not be able to help much in a bought and sold world such as the one we live in.

  4. I know, Cat. Our hopes have been dashed in many ways, but I'm still so glad we all had that moment. It was magical and precious and I'm not sure when we'll get it again.

  5. I don't know for sure if I shed any tears then, but I did just now.

    Beautifully written.

  6. I feel that way too Jaz, and it makes me sad...

  7. Aw, Cath. Thanks!

    Cat, me too. :(

  8. and rhymes with door

  9. This post is elegant in thought, and beautifully composed. I sobbed that day.

    You have a gift. I'm so happy to see how you use it.

  10. Anonymous, Really? On this post? REALLY? You know what? I'm going to leave it there so you can sit with it.

  11. Richard, thank you. Your comment means a lot. It's a day that was meant to be shared.

  12. FYI: I don't know why the formatting is messed up on this, and it appears to be beyond my skill set to fix it (but thank you for the new gray hairs, blogger). But everything after the "in case you're interested" is from 2009.)

  13. I had the same reaction that Cat's brother did. I was really happy, but had this sadness in the back of my mind that weighed on me because I knew the only direction he could go was down. The hopes were so high that it would take a miracle to sustain and to effect so much change when there are so many people determined to NOT change.

    And since I'm always the one who seems to say "dumb ass" on your blog (every time I'm here), I'll just reiterate how sorry I am if more than one second of your day was spent thinking about dumb ass, narrow-minded, misogynist bigots who aren't grown up enough (or capable enough) to participate in intelligent and civil discourse.

    Or to totally mangle a quote from Isaac Asimov, "name calling is the first refuge of the incompetent." (Sorry, Mr. Asimov.)

  14. Wendy, isn't it sad that that's really the only way it could have gone and that so many people made it their mission to ensure that it did?

    Thanks for your comment. And the dumb ass. I find it oddly comforting. :)

  15. PS... The formatting issue appears to be related to the pasted text being categorized differently. So this blogger theme probably has a style sheet that codes one thing for written text, and another style for pasted text, perhaps assuming that it's a block quote. I might be able to edit the CCS file, but maybe not. :-)

    Do you like me when I talk all geeky?

  16. I'm a pacifist, but I really want to kick the dumb squarely, and I have the skills to do. Unfortunately, I've sworn to use my powers for niceness instead of evil.

  17. Richard, edit the CCS...what???

    (I'm sure Aniket will understand PERFECTLY should he blow through.)

    I'm thinking the dumb ass will get bored and go away.Your pacifism can carry on.

  18. Well, Richard is right (Good ol' Firebug sees it all :D) but I've mailed you a work-around that I hope will be easier for you than googling CSS. :D

    Copy pasting can sometimes be a something that rhymes with itch (Are we not playing this game? ;)) It's a bigger pain on Wordpress than it is on Blogger.

    As for the post. I'm not an American. And plenty out here hated Obama coz his stand made many Indians to leave US and move back to India. But I get it. Everyone was facing a crisis and you guys had it much worse than us. It was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do.

    No one likes people from other countries stealing your jobs. Though it's a topic of whole other debate.

    I'm a noob when it comes to politics, domestic or world. (I came to know Osama was dead via imdb and then again coz Jack Bauer was trending on twitter) So, as far as politics is concerned, I've never been much concerned. But I can imagine the feeling, coz in different shapes and forms, we've had and still have many of similar troubles in our part of the world. To Kill A Mocking Bird, remains one of my most beloved books.

    For a change I liked one of your rants.

    P.S: Obama's roast of Donald Trump was awesome. Have to hand it to the guy. He. can. talk.

  19. LOL... Two of my three career paths merged in my penultimate comment. I can't tell you how often I typed in CSS when I meant CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) when writing environmental stories. Now I'm doing it the other way.

    I bow to the master in all matters HTML and CSS. I'm much more familiar with Wordpress anyway, as that's what I run my blog on.

    And this is a wonderful rant. If you ever want to rant again, but would prefer to keep it off your blog, come do it at Telling Stories. I love being a sh*t-dis.... er, iconoclast.

  20. Aniket, we can play whatever game you want--even X Box, because YOU FIXED IT. And, I might add, in about 1/1000th of the time it would have taken me to figure it out. Thank you!

    I can appreciate that things might look differently in different parts of the world. I mean seriously different. But I can tell you this--I will be just as excited when the first South Asian becomes president. And I hope it's my daughter. :)

  21. No, Richard, your (incomprehensible) comment made me to ask Aniket and now it's fixed; I was just going to leave it as it was. Because computer things make me a little crabby.

    I might think about ranting again. It's kind of in my blood.

  22. not bored

    sittin purty

  23. Love this thanks for sharing -- I cryed too! & Gotta say -- my hopes are not dashed but are higher than ever. Thie man took office in the biggest economic mess since the great depression. Honestly hes done an amazing job, saved our economy from would have been so so much worse. Can't recall ANYONE blaming FDR for the depression he inherited so why do we let folks get away with blaming BHO? After stemming the tide of collapse by passing a giant stimulus & saving the auto industry & even in the midst of thie mess he got Obamacares passed- that is a law that provides a HC safety net to millions of Americans!! 10 presidents have tried & failed to pass it. After that he passed Wall Street reform tougher regs have not been put in place since the depression. I just do not get why there is ANY negativity about this President - I can't recall a better one.

  24. Sue, thanks so much for your comment. It is important to remind ourselves of everything you said, and I am really glad you came here to say it!

  25. Way behind on my blog reading and yours is one of the ones that doesn't recognize me unless I jump through hoops. *Sigh* Yeah, Blogger issues. You really do get what you pay for. ;-)

    I never thought of him as perfect - same as you - and I think we discussed that in the comments back then. He came out of nowhere and sped straight to the top, but he didn't really. (I see some Republican's this year trying to emulate his journey with varying success.)

    He made promises - some he has kept and some he hasn't. No different than your average politician. I, too, will vote for him again. He was handed a large pile of crap and has cleaned part of it. He has more to do.

  26. P.S. I have some of those same relatives. Maybe you and I are related.

  27. Sarah, sometimes it makes me go through hoops, too. I think blogger hates me.

    He definitely has more to do, and I hope he gets the chance. Because some of the alternativves are like the emails I get: disturbing.

    That would be one of the coolest things ever if we were related! :)

  28. All this time later your blog post made me cry. Well done!