Monday, October 27, 2008


I know I have said this before, but I think this bears repeating.

Election Day is coming up on Tuesday, November 4th. This, more than any other election, is so very, very important. We are standing on the edge, my friends. We are standing on the edge of a very big precipice, and what we do on Election Day will determine whether we plunge over the edge, or survive to teeter on it before being able to step back and heave a sigh of relief.

I hope to heavens that those of you old enough have registered to vote. And that you will vote. That you won't sit at home thinking, "Well, someone else is going to vote opposite of the way I vote and that will cancel me out."

Because that is just plain stupid. That isn't the way it works. Trust me. Every single vote COUNTS.

And before you shrug, roll your eyes, and scroll past this entry to look at something far more interesting, I want you to consider three dates.

February 3, 1870.

August 26, 1920.

June 2, 1924.

And what is the significance of these three dates, you may all wonder?

February 3, 1870 is the date the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. And in case you don't understand its significance, read this:

"Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

This is the amendment that gave African Americans the right to vote following the Civil War and led to African Americans being voted into state legislatures and Congress in never before seen numbers. Of course, it didn't last, because whites found a way to stop them. The "Literacy Laws" were one way. One had to be able to read to vote, and many former slaves were illiterate. However, if one's grandfather had voted, then one was exempt from the test. Of course, very, very few slaves had a grandfather who had voted. Another method was the "Poll Tax" that many states used to keep African Americans from voting. You had to pay a fee to vote. Of course, this also shut a lot of poor whites out of the voting booth, too. It took the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's to remove the last of the barriers that kept African Americans from voting.

August 26, 1920 was the day women in the United States were granted the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That was only 88 years ago, my dears. My grandmother was in her forties the first time she was legally allowed to vote. Try imagining that, ladies. Imagine listening to your husband, your brothers, uncles, friends, all discussing an upcoming election, and knowing that you have no say in it. Unless you could convince them to vote your way. Which you most likely couldn't. They probably would have patted your shoulder and told you not to worry your pretty little head over it. Imagine not being able to vote NOW. Horrifying, isn't it?

And the last date, June 2, 1924. This was the day the Indian Citizenship Act, also known as the Snyder Act, was signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge. This act finally finally gave citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States, and thus allowed them the right to vote. Not that they all got it right away. Some states, even as late as 1948, still banned Native Americans from voting. In 1948, it took a Native American World War II veteran to file a lawsuit that went to the state Supreme Court in Arizona to allow Native Americans in that state to vote. In 1956, Utah was the last state to grant Native Americans living in their state the right to vote.

Hundreds of people have gone before you, fighting, protesting, being arrested, harrassed, killed to get you that right to vote. They have been hosed, attacked by police dogs, hit with truncheons, been taken away from their families, shamed, and humiliated... all in the name of getting the right to vote, not for themselves, but for their children, and their children's children. You. You, sitting there in your chair, staring at this screen, thinking maybe you will, but then, maybe you won't, maybe it's not worth the bother. Look into their eyes and tell them that. Tell your grandmother, and your great-grandmother that you're going to be too busy to vote. Or taking an extra nap. Or cleaning out the garage. Tell your great great grandfather, who spent hours huddled over a Bible by the light of a candle stump, teaching himself to read so he could pass the literacy test his state had enacted, in order to vote. So that his son and his grandson would be able to vote later. Tell that to your great great aunt who spent three nights in jail without food, being taunted by guards and other prisoners after protesting for a woman's right to vote, knowing that her husband refused to pay her bail to "teach her a lesson."

It isn't so easy now, is it?

There are a lot of people who say patriotism means "My country right or wrong."

They're wrong.

Patriotism means, "My country right or wrong. When she's right, she's great and I love her. But when she's wrong, I want her fixed, and dammit, if I have to, I will roll up my sleeves and do it myself! Who's with me?"

It doesn't mean following our leaders blindly. It means taking responsibility, and knowing when things have to change. It means getting off your butt and going out to vote. It means getting up at the crack of dawn, because the nearest precinct is a two and a half hour drive away. It means sitting down and doing some research, actually taking time to read the voters guides, then going on to check up on it yourself, checking facts, making notes, and voting for the person you think is best suited to do the job, regardless of party affiliation. There are many ways to serve your country. This is just the most basic of them.

Go out and vote. You've got time now to do your research. Not just about the national elections, but your local elections as well. Educate yourself. Be an informed voter. And remember all those people who have gone before you. They're looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to make their sacrifices worthwhile.

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