Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Flashback: 1964

One of the memories that crossed my mind when I voted for Barack Obama was watching my mother pay her poll tax. 

For those of you unfamiliar with that term, the "poll tax" (along with other practices such as "literacy tests") was a particularly pernicious form of disenfranchisement, abolished in federal elections by constitutional amendment in 1964 and in state and local elections by the Supreme Court in 1966.  

My mother often took me along when she voted. When possible, I take Small Child with me.

But, in a change of seasons, today I took my mother to vote.

With a spiffy cap covering her chemo-hairless head and a cane to steady her ever-weaker gait, she made her way into the courthouse for early voting. She was able to handle the ten or so stairs down into the courthouse entrance nearest our parking spot, and fortunately the elevator was working. 

When we reached the second floor, the stairs loomed so very large.  She was ready, though. Ready to climb to vote in what is, realistically, at age 87 her final presidential election. 

But in one of those moments of grace, all too rare in this season of sniping and vicious campaigning, the worker stationed to greet and guide those arriving to vote took one look at us and said, simply, "We're so glad you're here. Would you like us to bring a machine down so you don't have to climb those last few stairs?"

Mother paused a moment, then replied, "Yes, I think that would be best."

I wish I could say that in the 44 years since the poll tax was repealed the world had changed enough for her to vote for Obama. In truth, I think she was voting for McCain rather than against an African American man. 

But as I sat there, watching a patient Latina assist her with the electronics and a rainbow of diverse voters pass by, I felt so very grateful that my world has.

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