There was a fellow standing behind us in line at the polling place, complaining incessantly about having to 'stand in this line after I've already stood in that one!' Like us, he'd been dropped from the voter rolls for some reason, and only got to fill out a partial ballot. Something to do with the census, I suppose. He bitched at a cop, at two poll workers, at the people behind him. I laughed aloud at him, which made my wife uncomfortable (don't laugh at crazy people, folks). Feet tapping, stepping out of line to look 'significantly' at the poll worker, repeating the same words over and over again. 'Sir, this is the process you have to follow,' said the cop. 'NO,' he responded. Well it worked when he was six, I guess, why shouldn't it work now? We guessed he was an autism-spectrum type; it'd be ungenerous but reasonable to guess that he's just an asshole. Well there are worse things in the world.
But the wait in line was pretty irritating. Still, the poll workers were friendly and enthusiastic, and we got our ballots maybe fifteen minutes after arriving at the polling place.
Two booths opened up side by side, and my wife and I entered at once.
Because of the presumed census snafu, we didn't get to vote in the local elections; we found out afterward that all five races on the state ballot are unopposed. Blah. So it was Questions One (drop the state income tax?), Two (decriminalize marijuana?), and Three (ban dog racing in the state?), the senatorial election (Kerry will win, so I threw my vote to the Libertarian as a multiparty advocate), and the presidential choice.
Nader's name was on there, as were some Green-Rainbow types, a Libertarian. Presumably the McCain-Palin ticket was listed, but I didn't see it. I hardly saw anything, frankly. I've never been so excited about participation in government - however rudimentary or superficial - in my life. There: Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.
I've filled out a lot of Scantron forms in my time, on various school and state exams, but have never felt in doing so that I was honoring the past or building a future. I voted for Kerry in 2004 and was glad to do so, but I was a little cynical about it - my vote didn't matter much after all (this is Cambridge). My vote doesn't matter any more this year than four years ago; Obama has Massachusetts locked up, of course. And yet.
I can never make up my mind about human nature. Some days it seems we're basically lazy venal selfish beasts, ready to swerve toward evil at the slightest provocation as long as our self-interest isn't obviously threatened; other days I recognize that people will rise to the level of the opportunities they're offered, will respond to honesty with honesty, will unite for a common purpose good or evil if it means they can draw closer to their brothers and sisters. I like the neatness of aphorisms like 'A Republican is a Democrat who's been mugged,' yet I didn't start voting Democrat until after I was mugged in Boston. I want to think that conservatives and liberals break down along some essential moral line that can be known - and gamed, if one is so inclined (oh well).
Half the time I think racism is a negative expression of the inborn desire for simple principles of association - understandable but sad, and to be overcome if possible by a process of acclimatization, education, fellowship. The other half I think growing up is a process of learning to fear for others and ceasing to be afraid for ourselves, and that the colour of one's skin only scares those whose development has been arrested somehow. (And then I'm reminded that children don't know hate, only wonder.) I have no illusions about the end of racism and fear, but I have absolute faith in people's ability to learn new things about one another, to discover new powers within themselves. Funny thing about us. You and I can learn together; we do so. What a thing that'll be.
Tonight I'll head over to Lindsey and Rugs's house with a group of friends, sit down with a bottle of wine, and watch the great wheel turn for a while. I'll try to remember, for once, to mark the time - to fix my memory, to make a treasure of the moment. I'm proud of Americans. I think Barack Obama's gonna be president, and I think he'll work hard and stay honest on the job. I feel like the sun's rising. I'm so proud of us, and I want this feeling all the time. Some feelings you have to go out and make. We can if we want. Yes, we - well, you know.