“Your Vote Gives Us Hope” by Gail Bindley-Taylor
NO, I am not voting in this election. “Why,” you may wish to ask, “knowing all that you do about the importance of this election, in a country you now call home? How could you not? This is unconscionable, you, a black woman at this very polarizing time, would dare not to vote?” The truth is that since I turned 18, I have only voted once in my life! And it not because I lack a sense of patriotism, or I am just negligent about my civic duty. It is because I have not been eligible to vote in the countries in which I have lived since the only election I participated in my own country close to 40 years ago. But that does not mean that I have lost that powerful heady feeling that courses through your body when you have voted and let your voice be heard on who gets to make policy that shapes your life for years to come, even if your candidate loses.
My mother always voted but my father faced the same challenge I do, as though he was a resident of the country of my birth, he was not a citizen. That did not stop him from having or expressing strong opinions on those aspiring to government office or encouraging others who could do so to vote for whatever platform and person they felt would most serve them. But why bother, you may well say, when your voice–especially if you are black, a person of colour, or indigenous, identify differently, or are poor, or in prison–is so hard to hear over the din of party politics and white supremacy? Why bother when voter suppression, talk of voter intimidation, disinformation about absentee ballots and the thought of having to stand in long lines for hours in the midst of a pandemic seem to be conspiring against your will to do what you know you need to do? Because as I heard one writer say last week, “voting is power.” She also suggested “the vote is a prayer.” It is a prayer, among other things, that the Supreme Court will be independent, that women will keep the rights to decide what is in the best interest of their reproductive rights and health, that all people in this country will have equal access to employment opportunities, a fair wage, good education, decent housing and health care, and that we can all co-exist harmoniously in an antiracist nation. A prayer that black bodies will not be feared but respected, and that white persons understand their burden in the legacy of slavery, learn from it and truly see those of us who are non- white as different but equal.
I cannot vote because I am not yet a citizen of this country. I have worked and lived here legally for more than 37 years for an international organization, which required me to keep my nationality. It is only upon retirement that I could apply for legal residence. And so now I wait for the final step of the journey to becoming a citizen and being able to vote. But until then I will do everything in my power to get out the vote by others, who, in carrying out their civic duty, can represent me and the many voiceless in this country. Your vote gives us hope for a better tomorrow. Writer Martha Jones, author of the book Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All,” says that every potential voter needs to be able to answer the question “what kind of ancestor will you be?” Our own Mother Louise Kalemkerian, in a recent homily, told us that in this moment Jesus is calling us to “pay attention,” and to stand where he stood “in the tension between faith and freedom.” We’ve got two weeks to go until Election Day, so make a plan if you haven’t voted already as to how you will get your vote out and vote, knowing that you are voting for people like me who can’t yet vote.