The United States of America has given me so much. For that reason alone, I love America; not in the obnoxiously loud patriotic American kind of way where I think there is nothing that America can do wrong. She has her faults and is far from perfect. All in all though, I would most likely choose living in America than most other places. And no day is that sentiment ever stronger than on election day. I usually cry at least once over a voting story I see on election day. This was one of those stories:
As I waited in line earlier today to vote and woman came in with the assistance of a nurse or caretaker and got at the end of the line. She was the kind of feisty older woman who looked at the man probably 50 years younger than she was with a look that said “I could take you on in a street fight and win” when the gentleman suggested she could do the handicapped voting where they bring your ballot box out to the car. I immediately liked this women from that interaction alone. As the line slowly creeped forward those of us in line quietly chatted with one another and I eavesdropped in on her conversations. I wish I had gotten this woman’s name, but I do know her birthdate. She told the people around her that she was born on February 10, 1919. This is when I quickly turned back towards the front of the line so I wouldn’t cry and be the weirdo crying in the voting line. I hid the tears with an immediate appreciation of just how amazing the country we live in truly is.
For those who have yet to understand why I appreciated this story so much, allow me to explain. Suffrage is not a right all Americans have shared equally throughout our history. It was earned and fought for by brave men and women throughout this nation because they believed in the words “We the people” and they knew it meant ALL the people. Women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment was ratified when Tennessee became the 37th state to ratify the amendment, which it did so on August 18, 1920. And that right there, ladies and gentlemen, is what led to my emotions. That woman was born before women were granted the right to vote. She was born into a country that said she wasn’t smart, strong, or good enough to help be a part in deciding the direction that our nation would go; and in one single lifetime, that has all changed. To me, that is extraordinary.
This post isn’t going to tell you who to vote for. It is not going to try and convince you while one candidate is better than the other candidate (partially because I want you to keep reading and partially because you and I both already know that both candidates are morons.), either. But it is going to tell you how I voted 6 times today. And Maybe when I am done, from here on out, you will vote 6 times on election day also.
I have always voted in every election I was physically able to because that election and that vote is bigger than myself. It represents the people who have given so much so that I was able to do that small act of citizenship. When I handed my identification to the poll worker today and confirmed my address and wrote my name down on the line next to number 298 I didn’t just write my name. I thought back to what I have learned over the years about our nations history and I wrote down the names of 5 other people who all cherished the right to vote that they actually helped changed the history of this place we live.
By writing my name I also write the name Susan B. Anthony. Anthony was arrested for trying to vote in 1872 and convicted with illegal voting. Upon her conviction she refused to pay the fine and still it went unpaid all the way to her death. Anthony also founded the National American Women’s Suffrage Association which was crucial in getting the 19th Amendment passed (Sadly, it wasn’t ratified until 18 years after her death). Today it is more commonly referred to as the Susan B. Anthony amendment in her honor.
By writing my name I also write the name of Alice Paul. Alice Paul was arrested at least 8 times in two different countries protesting and fighting for the right to vote on behalf of women. She was beaten, mistreated, and when she refused to eat while in prison she was forcibly fed raw eggs through a tube that was shoved down her throat to her stomach. The Process was depicted in the HBO movie Iron Jawed Angels where Alice Paul was played by Hillary Swank:
By writing my name I also write the name of Inez Milholland. Milholland was a woman who fought alongside Alice Paul as a suffragette. The day before President Wilson was inaugurated and arrived in Washington, Milholland helped organize the Women Suffrage Procession where she famously rode through the parade on a white horse in a white dress while wearing a white crown. Inez Milholland suffered from pernicious anemia and continued to travel across the country on behalf of NAWSA. This tragically ended in her early death on the road at the age of 30.
By writing my name I also write the name of George Lee. George Lee was a Reverend who was one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County in the state of Mississippi. Rev. Lee used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote. White officials offered Lee protection after he was threatened and intimidated by the Klan on the condition he end his voter registration efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered. Lee was never able to vote before his death despite being registered due to the poll tax.
Last, but certainly not least, by writing my name I also write the name of Annie Lee Cooper. Annie Lee Cooper was a Civil Rights Activists who is well known for marching with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Before this, Cooper tried repeatedly to register in the state of Alabama and was denied even after she passed all the tests that were set up to keep blacks from registering. Cooper stood in line for 8 hours to register and when ordered to leave the registration office by sheriff Jim Clark refused to comply with the order. After Clark’s repeated prodding and intimidating threats Annie Lee Cooper punched Sheriff Clark in the jaw knocking him to the ground. Clark and his officer repeatedly beat Annie Lee Cooper with billy clubs until she was unconscious and then arrested after she was drug through the building into the streets. Oprah Winfrey gave another masterful performance in the movie Selma as Cooper:
Although I truly only wrote one name down (my own) today, the whole reason I vote in every election I am able to is because it is that important. It means that much. To be a part of this process is something to take pride and honor in. My vote today was my chance to voice what I want done in this country and I used my vote to honor what Susan, Alice, Inez, George, and Annie Lee fought so bravely for.
So to those of you who didn’t vote today and to those of you who say it doesn’t matter or say I don’t like either candidate I hope you think long and hard about that. I hope you realize just how wrong you are. People literally died for a right that you are taking for granted. And yes, it is technically true that people died for your right to choose to vote or to choose not to vote. But for those of you who decide the latter option is the choice for you, you can have whatever reason and justification you want for that decision. But I am still calling bullshit.
And so are Susan, Alice, Inez, George, and Annie Lee.