Thursday, December 12, 2013

Voting With G'ma

This series of reprinted posts is a tribute to my mother, Esther Tamara Rukasin Annis, who died on December 5, 2013. 
Fresh posts will resume sometime soon.  For now, I hope you'll spend the time with us as we remember our mom.

It's election day.  I took myself to my polling place and walked right into a voting booth (after proving that I was who I said I was by presenting my driver's license) and was finished in 3 minutes.  It was vaguely unsatisfying. 

The room was empty except for the poll workers and me.  It was lonely voting without another citizen to share a smile and a civic connection.  A low turn out is probably bad news for the candidates and issues about which I care, but that wasn't what was going through my head as I inked in my choices.  Instead, I was wondering about the lack of respect for the privilege of being a citizen of these United States of America which obviously exists in this precinct.  The franchise was fought for and suffered for and cherished and treasured and it's not that hard to find the polling place and still there were no lines, no fellow citizens, no camaraderie.  There were the elderly worker bees supervised by one younger woman just sitting there, waiting for someone to help.  It's not a very exciting job, but today it looked more dismal than usual.

I left the gym at the Y after commiserating with the ballot-drop-box-worker about the lack of enthusiasm I was able to muster for this voting experience, and then I went over to the pod-castle to help G'ma with her ballot.  Yes, it was an Early Ballot but we were late getting to it.  Amster's law offices held a Proposition Party last week, and I had to wait for that input before I could properly advise G'ma on the myriad issues we were asked to decide upon.  Pizza and garlic twists and an hour of laughter and insight stood me in good stead; I knew what was behind the ballot initiatives and I knew where I stood on those issues.  I was able to make a good argument for the opposing side, and TBG thought enough of my decision making prowess to ask me for a list of who and what were appropriate decisions.  We often disagree on the issues; this year his distaste for the Republicans here in Arizona led to our votes being identical.  I can't remember when he didn't vote for at least one non-Democrat.  Of course, most of our Republicans are more Tea Party types than Lincoln types, a division which should be interesting when/if they end up in Congress.  Wondering what the Republican Caucuses will sound like next January kept me occupied on the drive to the pod-castle.

G'ma's first reaction to her early ballot was "You just fill it in for me"..... but I don't reinforce laziness so I waited a minute or two for her to forget why she was sitting next to me on the couch before I reintroduced the ballot.  This time, she was ready to play.  Though her initial reaction was to vote for all the Democrats (like any lefty from the 1930's she's a die-hard liberal and do not try to get her to change), she listened to my description of the candidates, pro and con, before she colored in the circles next to her (Democratic) choices.  Since our Republican candidates are uniformly against spending for education or health care and seem to be incapable of putting two sentences together to make a paragraph, my synopses of their positions had us both laughing out loud.  John Huppenthal is running for State Superintendent of Education on a platform of speaking English and discipline in the classroom.  "With a switch and a scowl?" asked G'ma as she filled in the dot next to his opponent.  I was surprised to realize how many of the Democrats had served on school boards before running for higher office.  I was equally surprised to see how many of the Republicans had not gone to college, or even high school.  A GED means something, but not as much as sitting in the classroom and finishing with your peers.  "What does he know about education, then?" she wondered, while voting for his opponent.  There was the joy in voting for a nice Jewish girl married to an astronaut (Gabrielle Giffords) and the disgust in being unable to vote for the local school board. 

Neither of us had received any information at all about that race - no phone calls, no door to door meet-and-greets, no mailers outlining the issues and the positions.  It's times like these that I miss living in Marin.  Our politics were truly local there; when 13,000 voters comprise the electorate it was  hard to ignore a race.  Everyone was concerned about everything - quality schools equaled high property values and well-heeled residents to shop in the local businesses which drew tourist-trade from the well-protected open spaces surrounding the community.  Here, I have a general sense of living in the Amphitheatre School District but not much beyond that.  My friends with school age kids do and don't use them, but no one seems too concerned about them, one way or the other.  I could exert some effort and figure it out for myself, but I am tired of being responsible for the education of other people's children when those people don't care enough to try and involve me themselves.  There are a lot of voters without a specific-child-related-interest who live in this District.  I can't believe it hasn't occurred to anyone that we might be a significant voting bloc.  In similar situations in the past, G'ma used to look for the one's she knew, then the Jews, then the women and then the Democrats.  We knew none of them, none were obviously co-religionists, and voting for a woman seemed downright sexist, even to G'ma's 87 year old self.  I should have called Mommy Crayola and asked her advice, but I didn't. We left those circles blank.

Then came the Propositions.  She's not against ObamaCare (which is now an epithet but which, I predict, someday will be said with as much reverence as Medicare) and she's a Union girl from way back, and anything with which Karl Rove might be connected is definitely not something she wants, no matter what that might be and so we were able to cut through the first third without much discussion.  Medical Marijuana?  "They want to tell my doctor what he can prescribe for me?" came right before she winked and said "And if someone wants to get it he'll get it anyway, right?" and I reminded her that a doctor had suggested it for her as an appetite enhancer while she was recovering from bilateral broken ankles and we wandered around the fact that she has "no memory at all of that" before we voted in favor of prescription pot and moved on to refusing to allow the legislature to sweep monies from voter approved funds for early childhood health and education and open space and trust lands into the general fund.  The argument that this would offset raising taxes to meet the budget deficit held no sway with my totally engaged, completely focused on the task at hand ("what's the next one?") maternal unit.  "And then we have no open space and kids go without..... hmphfffffff" and there was that face again, the one with the lips pursed and eyebrows knitted and the whole thing drawn into the center like a furious prune and believe you me you do not want to be on the receiving end of that look.  My mother filled in those circles with venom, with fury, with distaste for the idiots who could conceive of such a thing

and my heart was bursting. 

I knew she was in there.  I wasn't even peeved that she was sucking her dentures around in her mouth ("Gross Mommy!!  Stop It!!!" and she just smiles and does what she wants and I shrug and move on).

Nope, not at all.  We were involved and invested even if no one else seemed to be.

Thank you, suffragists.  

Helena  Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn.    Serving 3 day sentence in D.C.  prison for carrying banner,      'Governments  derive their just powers from the consent of the  governed.'
 Thank you very very much.

And thanks to Bunionella for the photo and info on the suffragists

(First published November 23, 2010)

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