Yesterday, I was an election judge.
I woke up at 4am, sleepy, but eager to play a deeper role in the quest for democracy.
My polling place was across the other side of my suburb, on the affluent side. I was not only the only black person working the polls, I was also the youngest. It proved to be an interesting observation for the long day.
The people I worked with, by county commission rules, were equally democrat and republican. The two party system continues to prevail. The entire group was amenable and enjoyable to spend the many hours processing literally two voters a minute through the procedures to gain access to the thing that makes our country envied and hated - the ballot.
It was at the polls, watching diamond ring after expensive watch sign the voter card that I realize something I always knew - one party over another always voted and wanted to make sure their needs were met. That party, the republicans, prevailed in most of the major national races, including taking control of both chambers of congress. Now, if it was simply a matter of governing difference, I wouldn't be so upset about the shift from blue to red, but it was and is more, that bothers me.
When President Obama was elected for his first term, the sheets were pulled off and every racist nut bag in the country emerged from his hiding place. The re-election of President Obama in 2012, seemed to set in motion a revert in history, a public lynching of a black boy, and more confederate flags than exist in the entire south. It put in plain view the deep hatred this county has for the only racial/ethnic group that did not come here voluntarily but is very much tied to the soil called America,
Sheer exhaustion filled the very sinew of my bones by the time we locked the doors of the polling place and I found my way home to a warm shower. My bed called me more than sitting up to watch the results. It was in waking up this morning to the gloomy weather outside and a feeling of overwhelming sadness that i realized something major happened yesterday.
Many of my friends have known me to speak up and out about the growing racism in our country and the danger involved in it. How could the sheer hate of the entire country rest upon the shoulders of just 13% of the population? It seemed as if every move the republican party engaged in was designed to make sure the really smart and nerdy president didn't have even one win and that the people that share the same skin color would suffer to an extent not seen since before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed. They know that I have been warning of an impending tsunami of racial hatred and action that hasn't been seen in a generation. I have been sounding the clarion since 2007 when I could reach out and feel the smut of hate, it was tangible, evident, real. Some tired of me.
Then August 9th happened, just four days after the primary that put the current prosecutor firmly in the win column and that squashed any efforts to breathe new life and possibility into politics affecting people of color. Mike Brown was lynched for jaywalking and the power brokers in Ferguson engaged in some of the most horrific acts of human rights violations not seen in my lifetime. I am fifty years old and hadn't seen in my lifetime the government sanctioned attacks on unarmed civilians that were previously only images in black and white.
Almost ninety days of relentless protesting, writing, appealing, and demanding resulted in the feeling of sadness that cloaked me this morning.
There were some in Ferguson who simply wanted to punish the clearly racists and thoughtless democrats who were ruling with an iron fist. There were some who threw their weight behind the dangerously religious ideologue republican whose policies were a fast train back to the stone age for women and people of color. There really wasn't a good candidate for either major race that was the highlight of the mental protests - county executive and county prosecutor.
In my own time of voting before the election, I couldn't join in the protest vote for the republican, I knew him, he lives in my suburb and his nice guy demeanor hid his sinister motives. Instead, I wrote in a candidate for county executive and county prosecutor. I know that neither of my candidate would win., I also knew that I couldn't jump on the opportunistic johnny-come-lately campaign of a has-been activist/wanna-be politician. That made no real sense to me. I also completely understood the desire to take a sledgehammer to the white union dominated democratic party that kept poor blacks in Ferguson in a modern day slavery system of fines, tickets, and warrants. I knew and felt the desire of the people to rise up.
One of the things I am not sad about is the awakening of the political voice of the millennial generation that previously ignored the power of the ballot box. They did not get the outcome they wanted, but they were able to draw the world's attention to the plight of promising young men who were chained by a speed trap for a city that operated in the no-tax republican mantra, all while wanting the public services that democrats knew required public taxes to make happen.
The sadness was also a bit of exhaustion, stress, and sheer disappointment that efforts to leave the abusive spouse only resulted in the continued psychological terror that was the bane of existence with someone who ruled every part of one's life. I once equated Ferguson as that psychological, emotional, and financially abusive spouse who sabotaged any efforts of their spouse from gaining their independent - ruining their credit, leaving them stranded without car or money, taking their children, even dictating what they ate - it felt defeating and demoralizing, the election that seemed to squash the once quiet voice,.
Later, as I mused about the meaning of the election and knew that time is something that would pass anything, I realized there was something that could still be done. Yes, the ruling party took over, a lot like that power hungry manipulative controlling spouse, but that win could not be forever, eventually there would come an end, a death, a corruption, an unveiling of how sinister their years of torment has become. I knew that eventually the door would open and the eyes of the world would reveal the depth of the addictive spirit that made them demand existence on the enslavement of the other. There would be a revealing.
Ferguson has already had that unveiling, news reports despite the local media parroting the "oh he is so wonderful" mantra of the local politicians, like the parroting of how wonderful that controlling spouse must be because of a token gift thrown out in the face of the public so that they would say "oh, they can't possibly be that bad." The power of the smart phone and social media, twitter, instagram, and even facebook, has given back to that abused spouse - the black citizens of Ferguson - the strengthened voice to be able to tell their story on their own terms, to find that sympathetic voice that had the power to get them a car, a home, and a well-paying job.
Change will not come overnight and while it appears that the enemy won, it is in that winning that the fortitude can be strengthened to be ready when the time comes, to make a permanent change to a problem that unchecked, would continue to suck the life out of their soul. It means an economic mobilization, a boycott, a few strat3egic moves of independent, it is like building a house with one brick at a time., Two years is not that far away, the 2016 elections will allow the newly awakened voting public to realize that there is power in that one ballot, that one vote.
Waking up across the country will be more and more people who recognize that the bully politicians barter in fear, just like that controlling spouse who continuously threatens the livelihood and soul of the supposed-weaker spouse. They will wake up to the power of their collective resolve and find the courage to share their stories, to band together, to link art-in-arm and stand face-to-face against the tear gas and declare, "you can't kill us all.."
The sadness I feel is that there will be more damage done, a lot like a ranting child, the winning party, like that controlling spouse, will strut around with their chest puffed out because they believe they put "them in their place3.," Their narcissism will blind them and they will destroy more before their own destruction is laid before the world. I feel for the innocents who will be swept up in the tsunami of fallout from the bully's actions, but know that in crumbling pieces, rebuilding will be stronger.
There is a ray of hope in that, in knowing that time will pass and clarity will come, that options will reveal themselves and that the ruling ones will not keep winning.