This was probably the 10th time I’ve gone to vote at the same local precinct over the last 7 years. Because of it’s relative proximity to my house I’ve gone there at virtually all times during open polling hours – from before 8am to just before 8pm.
My polling place is in an elementary school in a low-income part of town, it’s a nice place, neat and well run with happy children. In fact, it’s inspiring to be casting a vote during the day and listening to children laugh and play. This is also a part of town that probably has its highest proportion of black residents for the entire city and probably the entire county.
Despite the high percentage of black residents, I have never seen a black person at the polling place, either working or voting, other than the neighborhood cop who always stands in the lobby during election day.
Today was the first time that I saw black people there and a lot of them. Black people made up 3/4 of the voters when I was there and there were enough people to actually create a line, the first time ever in my 7 years of residence. People were excited – it was a pretty awesome experience. I asked a friend who went to the same polling place some 6 hours later and she related the same circumstances so it wasn’t some random hour that I chose to appear at.
After I left the polling place I had to go to the hardware store on what is our Main Street. After finding the batteries I needed I came out and went to my car which was near the pharmacy. There was a blackman and woman near the entrance of the pharmacy, they waved at me and called to me “hey, can you give me a ride?” I never give anyone a ride anywhere but I could see that they needed help – the man was very large and unsteady on his feet despite the cane he held to prop himself up. They needed a ride to get some food and to be taken back to their van. I said sure, let’s get you in.
I cleared the garbage in my back seat over to one side to get the man’s wife in there. Then I lifted the man’s huge legs into the footwell of the passenger side as he couldn’t do it himself. They wanted to go to the Burger King drive-through and get some Jr. Whoppers, their only food of the day. They had just spent most of the money that they had allotted for day on prescriptions for the man. They wouldn’t let me buy their lunch or otherwise help them out other than providing them with a ride. I took them back to the boarded up house that their van was parked behind. They’d been living in the van for a few days after having to leave a relative’s house because they were having family problems. We’ve had nights in the low 20s. “I almost froze the other night” the man said. After helping lift the man’s legs out and getting him up they thanked me and went behind the house to the van. “Pray for us” they said.
I went to the post office, to check my PO box for the first time in 3 weeks. While standing in line, the woman in front of me was cooing to her baby son. The woman in front of her who had a bit of a Russian (or related) accent, starting talking to her about children. “What’s it like to have a son? I just don’t think I could get it, it would be so foreign to me”. They had a pleasant conversation with the Russian woman concluding “My daughter and I have this bond, we are inseperable” and hugged herself. She went to the counter with her change-of-address form and the clerk told her she would have to redo the form. The clerk asked the woman, “What is this address you are changing from?” She said, “It’s a homeless shelter in Woburn” [across the state]. “And what is the address you are changing to?” asked the clerk. “To a homeless shelter here, my daughter and I heard there was space here, so we came here.”
This is the reality.
I’m elated that Obama has won the election. I promise to get involved in doing something to reverse the path of destruction established over the last 8 years. While I was presented with a lot of suffering and crime during the time I lived in cities like San Francisco, I’m shocked to experience this, in my face, in the beautiful and bucolic, rural area that I live in. I live in a small city of 33,000 people, if this is what’s going on here then I can’t imagine what’s really going on “out there”. Look around, open your eyes, what is happening right under your nose? Going into the voting booth won’t solve this anytime soon.