By: Diane Feen
The agony and the ecstasy of Democracy. The voting – the fighting – the money – the decisions and the derision. We are lucky though, to live in a free land where our choices matter. We get to cast a vote for the candidates of our choice and help our country (and our county) make important decisions.
But with this freedom comes a lot of pretty weird stuff. It makes one feel like the child of divorce fielding arguments from both sides vying for our attention. And as a child of divorce it worked quite well at that time because it came with gifts, fancy dinners and double allowance.
But in this winner-takes-all-Democratic scenario, it was like watching pirates fight for stolen bounty. After listening to paid advertisements on TV, the Internet and in print, I wanted to hide under the covers until the storm went away. I realized the person who invented the mute button on the remote control did so in anticipation of the 2013 Presidential election. And I am glad he (or she) did.
But I did not realize how fierce this fight was until I went to cast my vote in Palm Beach County. It is there that I waited in line for almost nine hours to be part of the Democratic process. The first hour was a feisty one. Nancy from Boynton Beach preached to all those near her that she was voting for Mr. Romney because of her children. She cited the bible and clutched her cell phone as if it were her life line. Another man with an umbrella hat walked around with a sign that said “Abortion is not right,” while volunteer Stan handed out flyers with the names of acceptable Democrats to vote for.
When we first started our collective journey to cast a vote for the election we were all fresh faced and optimistic. Each of us came with our beliefs hanging out of our pockets like a kerchief. But as time went on it became more a litmus test for survival. We were sun parched, hungry, tired and frustrated – but resolute nonetheless. Volunteers handed out water bottles, and one fellow grilled hot dogs on the side of the road and handed them out to anyone with the enzymes to digest them. One man opened the trunk of his car and freely handed out boxes of snacks (it was a virtual non-partisan relief effort).
But as time went on – the light dimmed – and so did our make-up and our spirits. There was little talk, but after five or six hours an unspoken camaraderie permeated our energy fields. Daphne Duret of Boynton Beach held my place in line while I journeyed to my car six or seven times to change umbrellas, food, clothing and magazines. Larry Adylette kept a sweet smile on his face and became my mile marker in the earthly sand of ballot eternity.
As time went on Nancy was conversing about her Jewish husband and her desire to remain a Gentile. Her make-up had faded and so did her diatribe about Mitt Romney. Daphne spoke little but nodded compassionately when I inquired, “Are we there yet?”
My spirits also began to dim. I began to feel weak in the knees and a bit confused about what I was waiting for. But I was buoyed by the fact that there were hundreds of other people (with young children) behind me in a line that wrapped around the block by nightfall.
I often think that perhaps I should have waited until Election Day to cast my vote. The lines would have been shorter and I could have exercised my right to do nothing on a sunny Saturday in November.
But then I remember that the camaraderie and conversation I experienced that Saturday was part and parcel of our Democracy and our inherent differences. It is in those differences that we look the most human and the most vulnerable. And it is those things that make us so much alike.