Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Importance of Voting

From today's Weekend America by Julia Alvarez:
"Every Election Day when I get to vote, I cry. I do. I see people I know and people I don't know, old people, young people, parking their cars to claim their one vote, people who disagree with me and people who agree with me. But mostly I see ghosts. People who made this happen for me.

You see, I'm remembering. I'm remembering people from the Dominican Republic, the country we fled in 1960. I am remembering those who could not leave the dictatorship, the tios and tias, uncles and aunts, who wanted me to have this day. Some were freedom fighters, who died trying to win this right for me. Some were just scared, everyday people who lived without ever having had this day for themselves. I owe them my thanks, and I thank them by voting. On this day I get to say what kind of a world I want! I know the price tag of being able to have this right.

When I hear people say they're not going to vote, that it won't make a difference, I think, give it to me! I'll recycle it! I know a bunch of people who can use it. I'll send it to Piti, a Haitian worker in the mountains of the Dominican Republic, who dreams of some day studying in this country; or to Mari, who takes care of my mami and papi back in their homeland and asks me to bring her to the United States every time I visit. Or I'll send it just down the road right here in Vermont to Felipe or Telma or Roberto, Mexican migrant workers who are helping our local Vermont farmers stay on their farms, workers whose own children were born here, children who will one day be able to say what kind of a world they want because their parents thought of them.

I want everyone who can vote to vote. And as they do, I want them to remember that someone back then thought of us. I want us to vote not just for ourselves but for the children of the future, American or not.

The first settlers of this continent believed: "The earth is not given to us by our parents; it is loaned to us by our children." I want us to think about that debt and vote for the candidate who best remembers that promise and that promissory note - what we owe the children of the future: a green, viable, livable earth; a human family at peace, solving our problems together.

Relatives and friends in the Dominican Republic died so I could have this day. Forty-eight years later, in Weybridge, Vermont, a citizen of a whole other country, I get to vote because they thought of me. Now it's my turn. I'll vote thinking of children whose names I don't know and whose nationalities don't matter, but who deserve a future we have to start paying back to them. Someday it will make a difference that we thought of them today."

Copyright 2008 Julia Alvarez.

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