Tuesday, 6 November, 2012:
Four years ago, I drove six miles south and voted on the campus of a sprawling Big Ten university. Walked past blocks of election signs, banners, and posters. Entered a stately building of architectural interest. Stood on marble floors between panelled walls. Waited in line for over three hours, along with hundreds of other Americans, mostly of the academic intellectual demographic. Listened to students discuss the meaning of life, unfair grading policies, and next weekend’s hottest parties. Listened to faculty analyze the economy, current social policy, and various threats to higher education. Voted my conscience. Went back to work.
Today I drove three miles east and voted in the city buildings of a small town. Walked past this single cardboard sign on the dew-dropped lawn.
Entered the built-for-a-practical-purpose fire station.
Stood on concrete floors alongside an impressive fire truck. Waited in line for eight minutes, along with 14 other Americans, mostly of the small-town senior-citizen demographic. (Lots of seed company logos blazened across the jackets. And the hats.) Listened to women discuss dropping temperatures, holiday plans, and next weekend’s church pot-luck. Listened to men analyze harvest yields, fuel prices, and various threats to local farming. Voted my conscience. Went back to work.
I live on the border of two worlds. Two disparate worlds. Two vibrant worlds. Two worlds that, for all their quirky distinctions, are inhabited by fellow Americans – “socially constructed identities of gender and class” in the first; “neighbors” in the second – each and every one uniquely privileged to vote their individual conscience for what they sincerely believe to be the collective good.
I’m not a card-carryiing flag-waver. But today I remember why I am proud (and grateful) to be an American. Not primarily because of the political and pragmatic republic it represents, but because of the breathtaking and beloved humanity it embraces.
It’s really quite something indeed.