Well, the elections are behind us… almost.
In Arizona, as I write this, there are still about 100,000 uncounted ballots. These are a mix of Early Ballots and Provisional Ballots – both of which must be counted by hand for some reason. And, because of this, the fate of a house seat in Tucson still remains too close to call. The difference at the moment: less than 300 votes.
And all those uncounted ballots wait, no one knowing how many will effect this particular race.
Interesting, isn’t it?
I have to tell you: I don’t relish the campaign season.
But, I LOVE voting.
I don’t vote early. I don’t vote often (only once in each election! lol). And…
I vote at the polls.
In my district, that means I go to a little church on 82nd Street in Scottsdale, less than a half-mile from my home.
The signs grow so thick I can’t see the grass on either side of the drive as I turn my Jeep into the little church entrance. But they stop abruptly at the “75-Foot Limit” sign.
The campaigning goes right on up to that imaginary line demarcated by those signs. That far, and no farther. On the other side? Campaign respite. The peace of voting one’s conscience.
When I pass the 75-foot limit, I always feel it. An invisible cloak of Americana, the pleasure of voting at the polls, descends upon me once more. And I’m not the only one.
As I pilot my jeep forward, other folks are walking out. They wear little stickers that proclaim: “I Voted.” I smile at them. They smile at me. Big smiles! bursting with more than a simple greeting. Those smiles they wear are filled with joy, temporary abandonment of strife. Recognition of a fellow traveler. They and I may be voting diametrically opposed tickets – opposites in every category. But, in that moment, it doesn’t matter. We’re united by a bond of fraternity that runs much deeper than politics. A fraternity created by the very Americanism of the practice we’re here to participate in on this fateful day. We– from all walks and all parties– are united, celebrating this distinctly American style of practice, inherent from our forbearers. In that moment– the moment just before and after the act of voting– we’re neither Democrat nor Republican, Green nor Libertarian.
We’re American. And I LOVE IT!
I see it and feel it, as I pass those who are finished, as I walk from my parked jeep to the voting line. There is an energy here, a silent buzzing of excitement, of greatness grown from the common person. We stand in line, young and old. The youngest rock back and forth from heels to toes, in anticipation.
I’m telling you, I’m not making this up—it happened! It happened this year. Less than a half-mile from my house. I saw a young guy, maybe 19 or 20, standing in line at the polls. And I wasn’t sure his clothing could hold him in because he was so filled with swirling energy, bursting excitement. Silent old ladies, they smiled at him and he nodded and smiled back. Somebody made a small quip, and that was all it took. Laughter rang out up and down the line. Laughter—that pressure valve that lets off the excess energy steaming up inside each of us.
I laughed too. You would have, if you’d been there. I’m sure of it. It wasn’t something a person could help. It just… came out. A great peal of laughter. The designer of the Liberty Bell would have given all he had to craft a bell that made such a sound. But, the hands of man are small, while the excitements of voters are huge. And perfect.
Maybe it didn’t work this way in your hometown, or at your polling place. If that’s the case, I’m sorry to hear it. Because, I know what you’re missing. Thankfully, here in Arizona, it’s easy to register to vote. You can even do it online at the Department of Motor Vehicles website. And, for those who speak Spanish and might not have internet access, tons of small businesses thrive throughout The Valley, where Spanish-speaking shop owners provide DMV services – including voter registration – to anyone who comes through the door. At the polls, the Spanish language ballots are stacked right beside the English language ballots. I know; I got one by accident this year, and had to trade it in for an English language ballot.
The voting I described above – that’s the way it went this year at my polling place. And, that’s the way it’s gone every time I’ve voted at the polls. I really missed that feeling when I was in the Army. Living in another state, I had to vote by Absentee Ballot, and that was a lonely, singular disappointment each time.
That’s why I reveled in hitting the ballots that very first time I was back, after getting out of the Army in 1994. It felt, in some strange and inexplicable way, like coming home again. I was struck by a feeling identical to the one I felt when my U-Haul truck topped that last cactus-studded rise before I dropped down into the great Valley of the Sun, as I made my long way home from Fort Bragg for the last time, and saw Phoenix laid out across the panorama before me. The way I felt when I smelled that scent of desiccated desert dust, the smell of home and hearth, of childhood and all I love about the world rising up to swamp my senses. That feeling rose up from the voting booth floor and engulfed me, all over again.
If problems make it so it doesn’t work this way in your hometown, or at your polling place, I wish you Godspeed in getting things changed! Because everyone deserves the chance to vote his/her conscience.
That’s the thing that counts, in my book.
After over thirty years of voting, I've decided: The people we vote for? I have to tell you, I don’t think it matters much. Politicians don't run the world; they just think they do. The people who vote – they’re the one’s who count.
Maybe you disagree. And, if so, that's fine by me. It's your business; not mine. After all, you have your beliefs. And, I fully support your right to believe what you want. It's no skin off my nose. And, it's a large part of the reason I spent roughly a decade of my life dragging an M-16 or M-203 around the jungle or through the bush.
Maybe you didn't even vote. Maybe you've never voted. Some folks might condemn you for that. I won't. It's your business; not mine. Nor anyone else's. Just yours.
As for me, though --
I love to vote!
My 23-year-old son left the house soon after I arrived home from the polls. He's young, he has tatoos, and he enjoys skateboarding in the sun. He rode his skateboard the short distance to that church. And, he came home wearing the same “I Voted” sticker I had stuck to my shirt. He didn’t vote for everybody or everything I did. But, let me tell you something.
I DON’T CARE!
My son is a voter. And that’s what counts, to me. He's part of the fraternity.
Later, my wife returned from work. She wore the same “I Voted” sticker. She voted a different ticket from mine in many respects. But, let me reiterate.
I DON’T CARE! It’s the voters who count. And, the act of voting. Who we vote for pales by comparative importance, in my opinion. I honestly don't believe it matters all that much. The fraternity of voters -- they're the ones who count.
On the other hand, if my wife had chosen not to vote, I wouldn't have run her over with our car or jeep. Voting is a personal decision, in my opinion. A personal choice. It has to be, or I believe it's meaningless. If you're chased to the polls, or forced to pull the lever at gun point -- that's not voting. It's coercion. Even if the person forcing you into it, isn't trying to make you choose a certain candidate or cause.
That's the way I see it.
Now, I promised to take some of Florida’s heat off of Leigh…
|Maricopa County (in red)|
|Sheriff Joe wearing his standard expression.|
But, on to a more interesting Sheriff – rumored to be just as tough as old Arpaio, but running a county just south of here.
This man is Sheriff Paul Babeu (BAB-you), the sheriff of Pinal County– Arizona's third largest county with an area that's nearly the size of Connecticut.
Babeu, originally from Massachusets, has been Pinal's sheriff since 2008 (the first Republican elected Sheriff in Pinal– ever!). And, when it comes to illegal immigration, he's just as tough as his Maricopa counterpart– perhaps even tougher.
|Pinal County (in red)|
Oh, and one other thing ....
Babeu's bid for congress, earlier this year, was cut short when an ex-boyfriend claimed that Babeu had threatened to have the guy deported if he outed Babeu. Babeu denies the claim, saying the only factual part of it is that he is gay, and the fellow was a lover at one time.
That's right. Babeu is gay.
|Sheriff Paul Babeu|
What do I think? I think having a macho, ass-kicking, hard-charging gay sheriff in my state is GREAT! If I lived in Pinal County, I'd vote for Babeu in a heartbeat. I liked him before I knew he was gay, but– and I can't explain why– I like him even better now. Which is strange, because– as my wife can testify– I'm not necessarily known for going around touting gay rights. In fact, that's one area where our votes often conflicted on past ballots. But, discovering that Sheriff Babeu is gay has me reconsidering.
Maybe the next time a gay marriage initiative comes up I'll vote "Aye!"
After all, a hard-charging gay sheriff deserves the state's sanctity, when somebody kisses him hello at home, after a long day of fighting bad guys.
That's my view, and if it's different from yours . . . well, that's what makes the world a fun place to live in.
So, here's to you, and to wishing you: Many happy votings in the future!