Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Today We Wait

It's election day in the U.S., and voters will soon be lining up at their polling places, while volunteers help get out the vote. Here in Prague, it feels funny to be sitting on the sidelines on such a busy day. Overseas, voting starts early - in the last few months I've helped first time voters sort through their paper work, worked help lines, organized voter registration, and of course sent in my own ballot. Voting from abroad ends early, too.* The die is cast, our ballots are in. Today we wait.

Back in August, I decided I'd try to register fifty people; I wound up registering many more. I thought I'd call five or six of my friends; I called pages of friends, acquaintances and strangers. I thought I'd never stop an American on the street and ask if they'd registered; I ask every English speaker I hear now, "Where are you from? Have you registered? No? Here's how." It's hard to stop the momentum once you get started. There's so much at stake, and always something more to do. Until today. Today we wait.

I'm trying not to obsess too much about the outcome. It will be morning by the time a winner is declared (if we're lucky). I'll be up before dawn to watch the last results come in. But today, today we wait.

*At least for most states. There are a handful that accept ballots received after November 6th as long as they are postmarked by today. Votefromabroad.org has a full list here.


Roderick Robinson said...

I can't simply shrug my shoulders and say, ah, well that's democracy. I'm not sure I could share a room with an ideology-driven Romney voter.

I've raised this matter before. As you know I lived six years in the US 'burbs and it gave me a fair idea of what America was like - the good bits and the bad bits. I might be living there still if unrelated imperatives hadn't driven me back to Blighty. But now that knowledge has faded and my main sources of info are from TV and The Guardian. I see the US in terms of percentages of the population not as individuals, in the proclamations of pressure groups rather than the generosity of neighbours, in foreign policy decisions, in random acts of violence which don't represent the majority. I keep on telling myself I wouldn't want to go back and yet I know that's a feeling based on superficialities not on the things that matter.

I'm a foreigner and my views don't count. But that's what Bush and Romney (plus a few others) have done for me, thank them very much. I worked hard to find work in the USA and went there out of intellectual curiosity, a love of US literature (at its best) and the things I'd learned from the more honest kind of movie. These days, provided I read certain types of books and certain types of TV I know there's a slice of the US community which I'd be pleased to share. And yet there's this right-wing miasma which poisons my feelings.

Had I set myself on your bringing-out-the-vote project I'd have corrupted the process: trying to guess which way people were slanted before opening my mouth. What a bigot I've become. Ah, but I'm a liberal bigot.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Way to GO!

On an unrelated note: if a book club were kicking around a trip to Prague, would you be up to the task of advising them on places to stay and stuff?

Lucy said...

Good on you, I imagine your efforts would surely lead in the direction you wanted, wouldn't you?

I'd add to RR's list of things which reassure me about a slice of the US community the many blogs I read.

Something came up the other day that if the UK were the 51st state the vote would be over 80% for Obama. Though perhaps none of us should be too smug about that.

Your daily postings are consistently enjoyable, btw.

alice c said...

It is hard to be an expatriate when you see the great events of history unfolding at home.

Thinking of you, Julia, and all my American friends on this election day as you watch and wait.

Roderick Robinson said...

Pure selfisheness, of course. I had a story half written and as I went downstairs at 06.35 towards the TV I wondered if the wrong result would leave me in a sufficiently optimistic frame of mind to finish it. Gee, am I ever looking forward to finishing it.

I am sure that the PP (Prague Psephologist) was at the bottom of this win.

But take no notice. I'm just a selfish Brit. No interest at all in the democratic process. Just mildly terrified. Now it's all over, ahhhh.

Anonymous said...

Julia, This was an inspiration to read. Please, if we're both still here for the next election, let me be your trainee and I'll get out the vote in Brno!

Julia said...

RR and Lucy - I have a notion (perhaps idealistic) that helping people to vote encourages them to think and talk about the choices that they'll be making. Add a perspective from abroad and the conversation gets even more interesting. I did register quite a few students who signed up as Republicans. I also listened to their classmates talk to these students about the election, and know that by the time they cast their vote they were at least somewhat more informed about their choices than before.

The results were a relief to me too!

GG - absolutely!

Alice - After the results came in, I took a tram home from the embassy. Everyone was going about their early morning business quite somberly. Then I saw a good friend of mine on the street and we waved ecstatically at each other through the tram window. I felt a bit as if I were surrounded by Muggles after hearing the news that Voldemort had been vanquished ;-).

Anne - I will take you up on that offer. I'm already thinking about 2014!