Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Reflections

At lunch today, Naomi, one of my colleagues, told the following story:

Her father was a poll worker in Wisconsin yesterday. An elderly African-American woman came in to vote. She was carrying with her a small package. The poll workers asked her what it was and she said, "I brought my ancestors with me." With that, she opened the package and took out pictures of several deceased relatives. The poll workers helped her set them up in the voting booth so they could be with her when she voted.
Naomi said that she's told the story three or four times and gets teary with each telling. She isn't the only one.
* * *
As always happens when I go to vote, I think about my grandparents. My grandfather died in March of 1986 and my grandmother in July of 1991. And, while I observe their yahrzeits at the appropriate season each year, I also think of Election Day as a pseudo-yahrzeit for each of them. In this, their adopted country, they savored the right to step up, to raise their voices, and to have them count. Never did either of them miss a trip to the polls on Election Day. Indeed, it is a most fitting tribute to their memories.

It was these thoughts that occupied my mind yesterday as I left my polling place. On the short walk home, I began to compose this post in my mind. And then this morning, I found the following poem on the blog of Rabbi James Stone Goodman:
Prayer After Voting

I voted
O holy God, I voted,
I felt good voting.
I honored my predecessors –
My grandparents, my parents of blessed memory –
Knowing, for them,
Voting
Was an ascendant experience.
They had complete confidence in our country
To provide opportunity for us
Their children
– That they did not have.

That is a matter of memory
Because I have had all opportunity,
But their stories reminded me that they
Did not.

I voted with the intention to honor them.
This year I voted from frustration too.

I voted against negativist language
Stiff, formal, and unbelievable to me –
The handlers speaking through puppets
Playing off fear in our country
When I want to vote for hope.

I voted for hope.
I voted for a deeper level of discourse
For a lower timbre of speech
Don’t yell at me pundits and politicians
And don’t think I am so easily played.
You couldn’t reach me with your strategies –
This year your strategies were transparent
And ugly –
And I turned off your voices
When they weren’t honest voices.

The problem is always discernment –
This year it was easy.
I know the truth when I hear it.
I voted out of discernment.

I voted for hope
I voted with the intention of honoring
Those who voted before me
During periods of higher expectations.

O holy God, I voted for higher expectations
Authenticity
Purification of purpose
Real talk from real people.

Politicos — don’t sweet talk me.
I’ll vote again.
Indeed, after such eloquence, there is nothing left to say.