The guys at the golf range pass around emails or Internet pages that they’ve printed off. It’s gotten worse than usual since the election is close. The owner handed the last one to Ronald and asked him to read it. This one stated that both President Obama and First Lady Michelle lost their law licenses under questionable circumstances. It goes on to say that they were forced to “voluntarily retire” their licenses, and that phrase supposedly indicates that there was some type of unethical behavior on their part. It mentions that President Obama probably gave up his license in 2008 “to escape charges that he ‘fibbed’ on his bar application.”
“What do you think?” Mr. White Golf Range Owner asked.
“I don’t believe it,” Ronald responded. He told me about it when he got home, and I looked it up on Snopes.com. It originally started circulating in 2010, and, of course, it is false.
“Don’t they think for a moment that if it were true, this story would have been all over the news?” I asked him. I read the paper and watch the news every day.
Ronald printed off the Snopes page and brought it to the range the next day.
“You don’t expect me to read this,” Mr. White Golf Range Owner said.
“It won’t take long,” Ronald said.
A conservative friend on Facebook responded to one of my comments on someone else’s page. The other person had posted a CNN.com post about a thirteen–year-old black boy who was picked up by police because he fit the description of a burglary suspect. The description was “black male wearing cargo shorts.” Read the post, Helpless as my son, 13 was profiled, cuffed, written by his mother.
Another Facebook member wrote, “Give Obama 4 years & maybe he can help.”
I thought she was naïve. Racism has just been more overt since President Obama took office. I responded, “Four years won't make a difference. Don't get me wrong. We need President Obama for four more years, but four years won't change this.”
My friend, and he knows who he is if he reads this, posted, “we don't need Obama at all..... 4 more years will only do more damage.”
I was incensed. How did he manage to turn this into a political argument when a mother was hurting, her son was possibly traumatized, and this event plays itself out in every town in America?
I didn’t respond to my friend’s comment until the next morning. I needed to sleep on it. I posted, “That was insensitive. I see you drank the ARMA juice already. Romney ought to strap you to the roof of his car and take you home before you really get into trouble.” (He was traveling to the annual conference of my professional association ARMA)
My friend responded, “it's politics... and I hold a much, much different point of view on the current President and on who should be the President for the next four years....”
Politics. They are wearing me out, yet I am just as guilty. Here’s a sampling of some of my posts on Facebook:
Some truths are meant to stay secret and Mitt blabbed because he thought he was in a safe zone. He didn't even care that there were wait staff circulating the room -- in his world, they don't count, and he figured if one of them told what he'd heard, no one would believe him anyway. But one of them had a smart phone, Mitt.
I'll never forget the moment when Senator Obama shook my hand in Charlotte in 2008. 47 more days to re-elect President Obama for 4 more years! High five!
Mitt needs a campaign reboot, like Herman Munster needed to be hooked up to some lightening every once in a while. But can you really bring the dead back to life? Let's hope not. Let's put this campaign to rest and get on with the business of running this country by the people, for the people, not by MItt just for 1% of the people. (With a link to The Daily Show)
Hatred stopped this man from accomplishing all he set out to do. But we won't let that happen in the next four years. Our votes will be our voices.
So even though my friend angered me for trivializing and politicizing a situation that is dangerous to young black men and Ronald is bombarded by printouts at the golf range that he finds offensive, I realize politics are on everyone’s radar right now. Emotions are running high.
I feel tired, though. I’m queasy. Like I ate a bag of candy and I reached the stars on a sugar high only to topple to a subterranean sugar low. I don’t want to look at another piece of candy.
But things are really going to heat up now. Forty-three days until the election and the debates are just around the corner. I know I will be parked in front of the television when they come on. I know I will watch the analysis afterwards. I’ll read about them in the newspaper and on the Internet. I’ll search and search and read some more, then make comments on Facebook and write about it in a blog post, perhaps. I’ll just open another bag of candy and start eating them, one by one or by the handful.
I know that campaign fatigue is the last thing I need to feel right now. Too much is at stake. The divisions between parties and people are too great, at least from my perspective. It feels like the difference between everyone being a part of America versus only the elite being a part of America while the rest of us, including the 47%, take on the burden of making the rich richer while having our civil rights denied and legislated.
I’ve voted in every presidential election since I was old enough to vote with the exception of one.
My first presidential election was 1976, and I voted for Jimmy Carter by absentee ballot. The one I missed was due to happenstance. I was out of town, in Rochester at an ARMA meeting (we’d gone as a group on a chartered bus), on Election Day 1992. Bill Clinton was a dark horse, and I didn’t think I liked him at first. I supported Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary. But as the election drew near, I knew Bill Clinton was the right choice.
The bus pulled back into town around 5:30 PM, and my friend Dia met me to pick me up because Ronald was working that evening. He had voted earlier in the day.
Dia had Cara and Mackenzie with her, along with her two boys, because she had kept them after school. She suggested we go eat dinner and then she would bring me to the poll afterwards. She had already voted, too.
We ate, she drove me to the poll, I stood in line, and when I got to the registration table, I was told I was at the wrong poll. I had voted there many times before, but they had changed the polling place a few times over the years. They directed me to another one. I jumped back in the car and told Dia where to go. At the next poll, they told me I was at the wrong place and gave me yet another location.
Usually I call the League of Women Voters each Election Day to ensure I know the right polling location on the rare chance that the postcard announcing my poll location had somehow been lost in the mail, but I did not own a cell phone back then and hadn’t thought to call in the days before the election. It was ten minutes till 9:00, and Dia drove over the speed limit, but the door of the poll was just being locked as I reached for the handle.
After Dia dropped us off at home, I sat in my rocking chair, the television on so I could track the election results. I began to cry.
“I’ve never missed an election,” I explained to Cara and Mackenzie. They were just six years old. I talked to them about how women and blacks had to fight for the right to vote and how some of them were hurt and even killed. I told them that if women and blacks hadn’t believed so strongly in their right to vote and hadn’t given their lives to the cause that Cara and Mackenzie wouldn’t have been able to vote as biracial women. I told them it was very important to exercise our right to vote. I said we should never give that right away through apathy. They had come with me to vote in the past. They had stood in the booth as I pulled the big lever across that closed the curtain and pushed down small levers under names. I wanted them to feel comfortable voting when they came of age.
Cara and Mackenzie headed down the hall to get ready for bed. I sighed and tried to stop crying so I could read them a bedtime story when they were done changing and brushing their teeth. Cara came out a few minutes later and handed me a sheet of lined paper.
“Here, Mom,” she said. “Now you can vote.”
She had drawn a ballot with boxes to check. I took the pencil from her and checked the box next to Bill Clinton. Late that evening, after all polls had closed and reported results, Bill Clinton was declared the winner. He garnered 43% of the popular vote and 370 electoral votes. My vote didn’t contribute to the outcome, but I was still upset that I missed casting it.
This election I am worried that people will be turned away from the polls. I worry that the shenanigans of the 2004 election will be repeated, only in more insidious ways. That’s how strong I think the hatred is. That’s how strong I think the division is.
One vote equals one voice. Please pass the candy. I can’t afford to be tired. None of us can.