I was one of those kids who always went with her parents to vote. I would hold my mom’s hand as we walked into the elementary school auditorium and entered the booth. I remember closing the curtain. I remember flipping the switches to choose our votes. I remember her allowing me to pull the lever that punched our votes in and opened the curtain. (I don’t remember stickers; I think this was a recent addition?) I remember doing this a lot. Like, multiple times a year a lot. So we must have been voting in every election, big and small.
I remember my dad chanting, “We want Dukakis!” and the pre-meme posters mocking Dan Quayle’s spelling of the word “potato.” I remember obsessing over Chelsea Clinton because she seemed relatable. I remember, more distantly, that my grandfather voted with glee. A survivor of the Holocaust, he knew the importance of an engaged democracy. I remember, quite recently, the rage my grandmother held against non-voters; also a survivor, she saw this basic civic duty as mandatory.
In what feels like just moments after murders spawned from white supremacy in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, I will return to the ballot box next Tuesday. Two days after my 33rd birthday, I’ll go to the VFW hall where I’m registered and smile at the folks running the voting table. We don’t have machines; I’ll use a black marker and fill in bubbles. I’ll take my sticker and put my ballot in the scantron machine, and probably buy something sweet from the Girl Scouts troop on my way out.
I’ve alternated between feeling paralyzed, exhausted, deeply sad and scared since the killings this past Shabbat. I have spent time talking to friends near and far, I’ve tried to make sense of why I’m feeling this so intensely and I’ve cried more than I thought I would. So, while I cycle through myriad reactions, I can go back to the thing I remember doing over and over again with my parents: I’ll get my butt to the polls. I know what voting does—it helps us claim a stake in our future. And even though the present feels bleak, the future is ours to shape.
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