Monday, October 6, 2008

Facing My Ballot

By Margy McCarthy

Voting is meant to be a private matter. But as I face my ballot on November 4th, I suspect it will feel a little crowded in my booth.

To anyone else at city hall, I appear to be alone as I walk through the door, alone as I take my ballot in my hand, alone as I turn my back on the room and have my constitutional say.

But they are mistaken. I am not alone.

As I face my ballot on November 4th, I face it as a mother. Although I am not in their physical presence, my children accompany me to the booth. They stand beside me and I am overwhelmed with the necessity of doing what is right by them. I must bequeath them a planet that is healthy and clean. I must provide them with the educational and economic tools to face their futures. I must promise them the experience of living in a nation that is respected and looked up to by the world- a nation that leads through vision, peace, and integrity, rather than vengeance, fear, and greed. I must give my children a country they can look to as example of how they should live their lives.

As I face my ballot on November 4th, I face it as a wife. My husband of twenty-five years steps into the booth with us, crowding me and the kids. A former United States Marine, who then spent another decade and a half working for a military contract, he looks over my shoulder as I face my ballot, and I face it as the wife of a man who served his country with honor up to and including the day he knew he could no longer be in any way responsible for what was happening in the name of that nation. I face it as the wife of the that man whose conscience required him to accept a smaller paycheck so he could sleep at night.

As I face my ballot on November 4th, I face it as a daughter. My parents enter the booth, and we all squeeze closer in the already-crowded stall. Married for fifty years, these two people set a standard I still struggle to attain. They were people with a vision, they saw the broader picture; they planned ahead, both for themselves and for the world they called home. They recycled before recycling was cool. They gave of themselves at every turn when they were needed, and believe me, they were needed everywhere they turned. They lived their lives morally, prudently, and thriftily, and now when they should be reaping the rewards of a lifetime’s hard work- a mismanaged national economy teeters on the brink of collapse.

As I face my ballot on November 4th, I face it as a teacher. Dozens of my colleagues join me and my family in the booth. Together we examine the ballot for reform to NCLB; for the crucial funding that will allow the law to work. We look for the policies that recognize and reward us for the thankless work we do every day and that support schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.
It’s ridiculously crowded now, yet I sense that still others have joined me. Glancing over my shoulder, I see that my students are squeezing into the poll- all 2000+ I have already taught, and the thousands yet to come. They look at me expectantly, and I can read the question in their eyes: Isn’t there more to an education than knowing which bubbles to fill on a standardized test?

As I face my ballot on November 4th, I face it as a friend, as a sister, as an aunt, a writer, a cousin, a daughter-in-law, and a niece. I face my ballot as the granddaughter of Ellis Island immigrants who came to this country with their hearts full of hope for the future. Full of hope for me.

And I face my ballot as a woman.

I am far from alone as I face my ballot. I look around and see the smiles of so many people whose booths I will also crowd; people I love and who love me. Looking further, I see faces of people I’ve never met with whom I share a common purpose. We’re all in this together, they whisper. I wrap my arms around every one of them, and together we reach for the pen.

And as carefully as if this were the biggest standardized test of them all, we ink in the oval next to Barack Obama’s name.


NyteRayn said...

Thank you for this. It moved me almost to tears. We do have a responsibilty on November 4th, and I am so looking forward to proudly taking pen in hand and voting for a man I know will lead this country to do great things.

Anonymous said...

I love the way to put your vote, it's so sweet, BUT! When I vote last time for Nancy Pelony, I tried to take my child with me and they did not let my five years old to come into the booth with me, if they do this now, I WILL NOT VOTE, PERIOD!