What Election Day Means to Me
The first time I voted was the year 2000. If you are over 30 then you know what election I am speaking of. The infamous “hanging chad” Presidential election of Al Gore and George W. Bush. I was so excited to vote that year. I had always been a bit of a political junkie. Even as a child. I liked watching debates and I lived vicariously through my Democratic mother who I would accompany to the polls each election year. I had strong thoughts and opinions about everything (as every young person with zero life experience always does). I remember at the ripe old age of 18 debating with a woman I worked with who was twice my age about Bill Clinton’s impeachment (I still stand by my opinion that is was a complete farce and waste of taxpayer money).
The 2000 election was an infuriating and disappointing experience for me. But it lit a fire under me. And it proved what I always said and what so many people trivialize and diminish to this day: every vote counts. From 2000 on I have never missed an election, whether it be local or federal. I am a proud registered voter. And at no time in my life did I feel that pride more than in 2008.
The election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States is a night that I will never forget. The feelings of nerves, elation, and pure joy I can remember like they were yesterday. I watched the election results at a restaurant/bar with my friends. I remember taking a sip of a friend’s beer because I was so nervous (I don’t drink). I remember bursting into tears when it was announced that Obama had won. I remember taking a cab home and my Mother and I hugging each other and crying. In our lifetime we got to see a black man elected President. It was a heady night.
The 2016 election broke my heart. On many levels. But specifically as a black Muslim American woman. I felt betrayed by my country and my peers. I cried myself to sleep that night and woke up crying. I left the house that morning feeling a palpable shift in the energy. This country didn’t feel like my home. Even though it was the place I was born. I was devastated. And angry. Angrier than I had ever been in my entire life. The type of anger that roils in the stomach and is visible in the eyes. My Mother told me she had never seen me so angry before. The rage rolled off of me in waves and threatened to swallow me up if I allowed it to.
I decided that I wouldn’t let it. My ancestors had faced far worse than this. Who was I to whine, and moan, and throw my hands up in surrender? No, I would wipe my tears and prepare for the battles ahead. And as we all know since that night in 2016 - there have been many battles. And many losses. But there have also been victories. These past two years have been a reckoning for each and every one of us. What do we believe in? Do we truly love this country? What are our values? Who and what are we willing to fight for?
I cast my vote early last month. That has become somewhat of a tradition with my family. We go to the early voting polls together. And while I love voting early as it’s convenient and insures that I get it done without having to come into work late or leave early, I do miss the camaraderie of standing in line to vote with my fellow citizens. The right to vote has been hard fought. For women and for black women especially. Our rights are being eroded at every turn. But what voting reminds me and what I hope it reminds everyone else: We are the People. This country is ours. We get to decide it’s fate and our future. We are the many. We have the power.
So use it.
Happy Election Day. VOTE.