June 27, 2009
Chris is fascinated with the College Baseball World Series. He leans forward in his "papa bear" chair yelling at the TV. Our two dog-daughters look confused at the barrage of noise gushing from their usually calm daddy. Of course, they cannot understand that the Tigers are at bat and doing very well. The LSU players look quite sharp in the deep purples and sunny yellow of their uniforms.
I find sports a bore, difficult to follow and most unimportant. On the other hand, I cannot get enough news of the Iranian elections. There, people run through the streets, wearing shirts and bandannas dyed bright green, the color of one of the stripes in the Iranian flag. They carry long, wide lengths of the same colored fabric. It looks as if rivers ripple through the crowds.
They are angry. "Where is my vote?" is the mantra printed on thousands of placards, quivering in clammy hands and held above their heads. The answer is not pretty.
The world agrees; their vote did not count. The election was stolen.
The streets of Iran are bloody. People are dying. They are standing against a powerful force and suffering, gladly, for their vote. It''s been a long time since Americans felt that kind of passion for our vote.
In our last local election, voter turnout was sadly weak. However, Columbus is not unique in this sort of apathy. All over our country, people seem to have better things to do than to vote.
Throughout our history, many have endured much for democracy. From the early days of The American Revolution, to less than 100 ago during the suffragette movement, Americans have given up so very much for this right.
What happened to our passion? We find it easy to care about football, or celebrities, or the intimate discord in the marriages of strangers. Jon and Kate? "New York''s" job search? Paris Hilton? We don''t even know these people. Their divorces, employment, and best friends do not affect our lives in any way.
Yet, we find it difficult to vote, or to be concerned about election outcomes. Now, that is something that truly affects us.
I have a friend in New Orleans who has stood up to some influential and controlling people. She almost always looses, but keeps fighting.
"I''ve been stabbed in the back so often," she tells me, "that I plan to start wearing red blouses to blend in with the blood stains." I''m not sure that I agree with her tactic.
She is the anti-Hester Prynne. I suppose we all remember the heroine of "The Scarlet Letter." As her story evolved, her red "A" became larger and more elaborate. By the end of the novel it was her badge, an homage to her history and to her suffering.
On election days, here, we get a small flag sticker with "I Voted" printed on it. It is tiny and fragile, almost insignificant. Maybe we should wear something huge and gaudy, something that screams, not whispers. The flag colors should remain, though.
And how can we ever forget the bloody image of Neda Agah-Soltan? As she lies dying in the streets of Iran, her eyes roll toward the camera, looking at us, perhaps through us. It is hard not to feel guilty. This beautiful young woman sacrificed her life for something we will not give up five minutes for.
I''m not upset about people wearing school colors, or logos and corporate trademarks. Get excited about the successes of your favorite team. But, please, can''t we save some passion for issues that are really deserving of our fervor? Let''s channel our zeal toward something meaningful. And let''s hope that Americans never have to carry flag-colored signs asking "Where is my vote?".
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.