If you, like me, spent any time this weekend in the areas of New York City that were ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, or if you even spent time just reading about these folks’ plight, it may be a difficult and frustrating task to turn your thoughts back to the endless media noise around the election. The disconnect is huge — but at the same time, the need to vote has never been more important.
Here’s my own frustration: I know the weather-battered residents in the most impoverished, neglected parts of The Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island, for instance, may languish no matter who is elected. After all, this is a national political climate where no one ever mentions the word “poor;” instead, the rhetoric focuses on the catch-all middle class. Meanwhile, one side is viciously attacking the other with a coded racial dog whistle for supporting government “handouts” — you know, those relief and assistance programs that save people’s lives and keep them from going hungry. And that’s all on top of a local political environment where our Mayor’s idea of helping lower-income folks is restricting their soda use and frisking their sons.
Meanwhile, it looks like ad hoc community groups in cooperation with Occupy Sandy, may be doing a better job than government or large agencies at getting aid where it’s needed after Sandy — without red tape and with on-the-ground knowledge.
Voting this morning I saw several parents with tots in tow, and it reminded me of the many, many times I took my kids to the polls. I took them strapped on to the front of me in baby carriers; I took them in strollers; I took them by the hand as toddlers; and starting when they were 2 or 3 years old, I let them move the metal lever from right to left and back again, once my vote was cast.
Now we get to vote by filling in the oval next to the candidate of our choice on a paper ballot, as if we were taking the SATs. Then you take the ballot and go to a scanner and feed it in. That’s it. It is, as one neighbor said this morning, “about as exciting as going to the bank.”
I almost never answer the door unless I’m expecting someone or something. I live in New York, and you can’t be too careful.
But the other day, uncharacteristically, I did answer it. When I opened the door, there was a young woman who asked if I’m voting on September 14, and then handed me a pamphlet for a candidate. I had forgotten completely about the impending election, which adds a delicious layer of irony to this post.
It’s Equality Day, and this year it commemorates the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. Let that number register for a moment. Women have been voting in this country for fewer than one 100 years.