I dream it is Wednesday, November 7. New Mexico, usually an ambivalently blue state, has gone Republican. Its five precious electoral votes have been awarded to Mitt Romney. My home state has cost Obama the election.
My horror awakens me. It is 6:30 AM. (Secretly, I am surprised and delighted to be so troubled as to “lose sleep” like a real grown-up writer.) The sun is rising red—is that the bad one? I can’t remember the little rhyme about the sailors. I think it’s the bad one. This is all very poetic. I open my computer and try to write a poem about it. I spend thirty minutes on Facebook instead.
My anxiety, however, persists. The missing-a-deadline terror which clutches me at least weekly has me gasping for breath. Is it really too late? Do I know anyone in New Mexico who could be talked into voter fraud? (I abandon that idea after visualizing the 2016 headline—“New Voter ID Laws Hinder New Mexico Democracy: Self-Absorbed Princeton Student to Blame”.)
What will I tell the waiting throngs of my peers? What will I tell my future children? I know they’ll ask, because I remember asking my parents about their first presidential elections. Okay, I don’t remember whom they voted for (losing candidates, I think—oh that’s something, maybe I’ll sigh for my children, look into the distance and say, There’s a curse on us Flitters—I chose not to vote), but I do remember asking. Probably I was trying to trick them into revealing what I really wanted to know: the secrets of the mysterious, exclusive paradise that is a polling booth.
I imagined entering a polling booth to be like sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall, an equally foreign and enticing pleasure. In my mind I saw a state-of-the-art, floor-to-ceiling digital screen, on which the candidates would appear as life-size holograms, with all the majesty of a Windows 98 preloaded desktop picture. My lucky choice would stare back with captivated attention, and I would make my voice heard—“I’d like some gay rights, please,” I would say, wise beyond my years, “and a pony.”
My unexamined conviction that this was the reality of the electoral process drove me to become an annoyingly outspoken voting advocate. In 2008, I despaired of my inability to vote, urging my family and older friends to do so with a ferocity I usually reserved for blood drive season.
The word hypocrite comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “hypocrite.” I know this because I have just returned from a Fall Break class trip to Greece. Having just spent ten days nodding thoughtfully at the marble statues of our politically-minded forebears and considering my duty as a privileged young woman to use my education for good—in the birthplace of democracy, no less—I failed to request an absentee ballot. An absentee ballot form sounded much less glamorous than a polling booth.
It seems I am faced with little choice. When my children ask, I will either lie and tell them that America couldn’t afford to hold an election in 2012 (get it? I referenced America and Greece, and now I’ve just made a national debt joke), or tell the truth: that voting didn’t seem that fun, and anyway, I had a thing come up. It’s okay. They’ll understand when they’re older.