Letter to the Editor
by Mary Britt Delaney
Voting day is a big hairy deal! It seems, so eye opening for many of us in 2020! 40 years ago, in the Fall of 1980, I voted for the first time. I had turned 21 a few months earlier. Politics was not on my mind at the age of 21. My dad gently encouraged me, “go vote!” I don’t remember a long conversation about it, but I would not have done it without his prompting. It seems to me, he wanted me to get familiar with the experience. The voting place was at a church a quarter mile from home. I went. If I had to wait, it was extremely short. I remember the cordial workers, the booth and the vinyl curtain I drew.
It seems my dad wanted me to know that everyone’s vote mattered; everyone counted. Today, I appreciate his prompting. The other thing I remember about voting day is that my mom would always be an election judge in St. Paul, so those days were long for us. My mom would not be home in the morning before school or after school, not likely home till 9:30 or 10 p.m. The household got along fine, but we went a little hungrier. Sometimes, my dad brought chow mein home for dinner these nights.
What is eye opening for me in 2020 is the blatant mistreatment and suppression tactics used to prevent some of our nation’s citizens from voting. So much B.S! One example I saw on the news: in a recent primary folks waited in line at 7 a.m. to cast their vote, only to reach the head of the line to find that the voting place had run out of ballots. Please!
Not long ago, while I was on a walk with a sister-in-law who I believe is more politically inclined, she confessed that she did not really know who U.S. Representative John Lewis was until he died. Me neither — not much. I am grateful to know who he is now, a man of unwavering faith who walked his truth. It was inspiring for many of us to hear more about Rep. Lewis’ lifelong commitment to civil rights as his body was laid to rest.
As a young person he and his siblings were not allowed library cards because of the color of their skin. We all know that this is just a drop within the bucket that is the suppression of Black people that has occurred in America, even in just my lifetime. As a white person, I once pled ignorance and innocence. I did not realize that the challenge to find acceptance and respect for a person of color might well be twice that of the average white person. One evening a few weeks ago, there was special on television about Rep. Lewis, which I was eager to watch. I asked my 16-year old son to watch with me. “Maybe you can write a paper for school about John Lewis,” I said.
He watched and listened, a bit, then chose to view something on his phone instead. That’s okay, since my boys know a lot more about “the real” of life, then I did at their age.
After my other son turned 18 in early June, he went over to Minneapolis to witness the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. I am glad he did, as both my sons are developing their own opinions about fairness and injustice. I am proud of them realize they care about others, and like my parents so many years before, I have made sure that my son who is now of-age will vote.
Looking back, my parents had their political views and they allowed us seven kids to choose our own paths. Without a doubt, their daily example was “respect others, all others.” It is an important lesson to remember on “voting day,” and it has not been heeded often enough in our history. Many others have walked long distances to vote, waited, only to be turned away and found “not eligible” to vote for spurious reasons. This election day, we must make sure to check in with the younger citizens among us, who may not yet understand this day’s importance, and ensure that all our voices are heard.