A couple of weeks ago I spent a considerable amount of a beautiful autumn Saturday knee-deep and totally involved in the exciting and glamorous world of politics and intrigue, out there amongst The People. Me with ponytail and clipboard, voter registration cards and a friendly spunky smile with attitude…in my long-winded way I am saying that I was registering people to vote.
I know, the activism gig again. I can’t help it. I am a bit of a nut when it comes to well….a lot of things and one of them is democracy. I am big on voting. It may sound corny but I am what I am and I had a blast!
True, there was some hard work involved but it was fun work. I got to meet so many interesting people! It was fantastic. Portland is such a quirky town and I savored all that quirky goodness.
I was just recently downtown and was ecstatic to be back. My turf was a section of The Portland Farmer’s Market at PSU. It is a lovely and lively place full of Farmer’s market type of people, college students and tourists.
If you are ever in Portland on a Saturday visit this place! It is full of good food and an eclectic and interesting mix of musicians and street performers all under beautiful trees in the south park blocks.
So there I was with a huge smile plastered on my face asking anyone and everyone who passed by if they wanted to register to vote. I found out that Portland, being the kind of town that it is, a lot of people have already registered and so it seemed more to me as if I was taking a poll than really helping anyone, but I was enjoying myself in the morning sun, talking to citizens about really how crappy the world is and laughing a lot.
Perhaps I was enjoying myself too much. An especially loud guffaw marked a change of tone just as old sourpuss entered stage left; apparently my spot was high on the list of appealing spots for do-gooders to stand. He made it clear through a series of looks, handshakes and innuendo that I was late on the scene; this was his spot.
“I’ve been here quite regularly. Several Saturdays in a row.” He told me.
His lips were moist and his breath reeked of old coffee. He stared at me with big bulbous fish eyes that quivered as he spoke. I’ve dealt with this kind before. I knew his type…
This was a prime spot–must be because of the close approximation to the coffee tent and Pine Street Biscuits which I hear is very good. I had a cute little grassy knoll with a street lamp to lean on. I liked the spot and I know this sounds a bit much but I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight!
I gave him one of those looks I sometimes give to my teenagers: it’s the “Don’t even try it or there will be hell to pay” look. I have perfected this and it never fails to work. Today was no exception. Mr Sourpuss moved on to the other end of the park. I would catch a blurry glimpse of him from time to time fueling up on coffee: he’s quite the drinker. He gave me a sourpuss smile. I beamed my bestest fake smile back, after all, aren’t we on the same side here?
I registered 12 people that day. Probably not a lot. Perhaps old SP made out better. I did however talk to a lot of people. I have found in my travels through life that we are more alike than different.
I talked to some independents, a smattering of Republicans (Blue State here) lots of Democrats (again Blue State) and a few alternatives; two leaning toward socialism and one anarchist. I was surprised by the number of people who choose the option not affiliated with any party.
Most of the people I talked to were articulate and engaged and passionate about our community at large. Many of us talked about how life was changing. We spoke of the economic downturn. I did not meet one person who hasn’t been affected. Most were hopeful, but wary and many were confused. Everyone I talked to agreed on one thing: this partisan bickering fighting between the two major parties must stop if we are to move forward and fix what is wrong with the country, not to mention the world.
I encountered some indifference, though not as much as I imagined. I didn’t try to sell anyone. I wasn’t aggressive. I represented myself with dignity. I was knowledgeable and engaged. I was polite to everyone and felt that I was an ambassador of sorts. Maybe not so much just to register people but to raise awareness about the importance of voting, because it is important. Many people have given up their lives for this right!
So when THAT date rolls around, whether it be November 6th, 2012 or some other date, if you are fortunate to have the right to vote do me a favor, do yourself a favor, do your fellow citizens a favor and let your voice be heard.
One voice may be so quiet it is difficult to hear…keep adding voices and it becomes a roar of a sound that cannot be put asunder…
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
“It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it”
Eugene V. Debs