Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I love voting!

There have hardly been any instances in my life, in which i just happened to be in the right place at the right time to be part of history. But passage of the 18-Year-Old Vote gave me that chance.

To vote in 1972 was probably, like, a Way Far Out experience for 19 and 20-year olds as well, but for an 18-year-old, it was better. There's something special about being the last one who gets to dash through the door before it slams shut. We were just old enough. Only we 18-year-olds got to savor that full three extra years of power.

Blessed with an early-in-the year birthday, I got to vote in the 1972 primary as well. I voted for Shirley Chisholm. That should be the big voting experience that I remember most. It was, after all, My First Time. But it went so fast. No line. Fewer items on the ballot.

The November election is the one I remember in detail.

That's partly because it took forever. Our polling place was at a country church that seemed way out in the boonies, but the crowd was huge. It rained. Parking was a bear.

Good thing my mother and I went together. Carpooling helped, though we still had to park alongside the highway and walk along it, on the wet scrubby shoulder grass. (Carpooling is still a good thing. Husband and I are taking my mom to the polls again tomorrow!) Sharing the experience with my mother might seem like the polar opposite of the anti-parents mindset we were all supposed to have. But, aside from the fact that I got many of my freethinking ideals from Mom and Dad, the adult rite of voting was one that no parent's presence could spoil for any of us. When it came down to the wire, they had to watch us go into that booth with full adult voting power. Power they couldn't stop us from wielding -- even those parents that wanted to. Fortunately, my mom liked having her kids become adults, and liked being there for my excitement over my first national election. Derned good thing, when you're sharing an umbrella.

The wait was well over an hour. Might have been two. I didn't care.

OK, that's kind of a lie. The day turned out warmer than I had expected, so my oatmeal-colored wool sweater (which looked so good with my spice-brown bellbottoms) was hot and itchy. My hair was a frizzy mess. We stood in the warm drizzle under our umbrellas, watching our pants cuffs get soggy as they dragged along the puddle-pocked walk that wound its way up to the church's fellowship hall.

I fancied that the middle-aged suburbanites around me were miffed over these young hippie-types being able to vote. We could turn their world upside down, man!

Ha. We did no such thing. Nixon won by a landslide.

But that was yet to come. As I stood waiting to vote McGovern, all I knew was that my vote would count. And it was a vote I had considered seriously.

The line inched forward. Behind us, a 60-ish lady said to her neighbor, "Oh I do hope you're going to vote for Jesse Helms! His wife is one of my first cousins."

At last it was my turn. I remember being almost breathless over the importance of what I was doing. The booth's curtain closed behind me and I was alone, with America cradled in the palm of my hand like a fragile bird's egg. I read each name. I flipped the levers. I checked and rechecked my votes. If I hit the wrong lever and voted two names for one election, it could void my ballot. At last I was as sure as I would ever be, that I'd done it right. I pulled the big lever which opened the curtain and locked in my votes at the same time.

I'd done it.

The excitement has hardly diminished. Maybe it's part of my old Flower Power attitude, still hangin' in there. I grew disillusioned with the Democratic Party, with which i had registered, and in fact, with the parties in general. I was barely out of college when I switched my affiliation to "No Party." Many things have bugged me, or worse, outraged me, in US politics over the years.

But nothing has made me blase' about voting. It's still a big deal. Distance doesn't stop me. I made sure that my absentee ballot went in on time, when i was away at college. Weather doesn't keep me away. In 1994, the sudden implosion of my first marriage, a few days before election day, didn't keep me away.

How I wish that everybody could enjoy voting, the way I do! We talk about it as a civic duty, and mourn the low turnouts. They are a tragedy and should be mourned. But not just because we shirk our duty.

The real tragedy is that we've lost the feeling of joy and empowerment that it ought to bring.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why I Love Kitty Pilgrim

She never wears pink.

Wait! I know what you're thinking: "That's all you have to say about one of the top investigative journalists in the world?? You comment about what she wears?! Why does everybody moan about the fashions and hair of serious women reporters? I don't hear you making snippy remarks about Lou Dobbs' ties!"

Hear me out.

That's my whole point. Why can't a woman be tough, competent and basically brilliant, without going on-air wearing #%$*-ing pink? So many anchors and reporters are showing up in pink lately. I haven't been keeping a log. Maybe I should start doing so. But it isn't just the Barbie-doll anchors. It's the serious, smart ones in the field, who have important things to tell us.

The Husband and I watch news at lunch and dinner. I've begun taking a moment out from nibbling my cheese toast to say:


out loud, whenever one pops up, and this is getting to be once or twice a day. On occasion, The Husband will say it first. I'm a bad influence.

Well, i might start keeping a notebook next to me, to document just how bad this cutesification of women reporters gets. I can tell you that CNN's Kathleen Koch wore hot pink last night, to bring us a serious report from the White House.

What is this pink trend about? Are the pointy-haired bosses afraid that CNN's women are too FemiNazi, and need to show that they're nice and Girlie, just like the Nurturing Ladies of Fox News?

Never mind. Kitty never wears pink. She's a serious journalist and she wears serious suits with no apologies. The day she gives in to the "Fem yourself up, pretty Little Lady!" idiots that have turned the news into Fashionista Central, I'll cry. Why the heck should she? When you've got a resume like this you don't need to.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lucy van Pelt is my heroine.

When she's not winning trophies for championship fussing, or creating slide shows of other Peanuts characters' shortcomings, she's dispensing five-cent psychiatry from her booth.

One of my all time favorite Peanuts comic strips is found in Peanuts Treasury*, near the end of the book -- ten pages from the back. It dates from the early 1960's.

Charlie Brown laments that he feels like he doesn't fit in.

Lucy: Have you ever seen any other worlds?

Charlie Brown: No.

Lucy: As far as you know, this is the only world there is....right?

Charlie Brown: Right.

Lucy: There are no other worlds for you to live in ... right?

Charlie Brown: Right.

Lucy: You were born to live in this world ... right?

Charlie Brown: Right.

Lucy: WELL, LIVE IN IT THEN! Five cents please.

It's positively Socratic!

I have to confess that I often feel more like the Charlie Brown of this strip, than like Lucy. But the beauty of Peanuts is that every character has a little bit of me in him or her.

When the Charlie Brown in me feels like this world is insane and hopeless, and like I don't belong, that's when I need the Lucy in me to remind myself: Wait just one freakin-A minute! I belong here! I was created for this nutty place, it's mine just as much as it's anyone else's and I need to be a little more like Lucy about it.

Thus the name of my blog. I'll keep living in this world. And enjoying it when it's nifty and beautiful, which life truly is, so much of the time. And i'll keep trying to make sense of it when it seems insane!

* Peanuts Treasury. Charles M. Schulz. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968. SBN 03-072585-2