Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History making night...

I am going to disregard the actual politics of last night's election for a moment, there are plenty of people cheering AND jeering out there.

I just want to talk about the act of voting. It was a great turnout from what I hear, many first time voters and people who made an extra effort to make to the polls.

It was not easy for my folks to vote. They are both in delicate condition. Dad is 80and Mom (would kill me if I told the world). But I picked them up and drove them out. It took more time for them to walk from my car to the polls than it took to actually vote.

The walk itself was the challenge. My parents each have a laundry list of health problems. My dad had to take a few breaks along the way inside to catch his breath. And I had to help point out the candidates to him inside the booth because his eyesight is failing.

But we did it. We voted. Me and my Mom vote at every election, even for the local fire chief. We make a point of always being counted. My Dad has not always made it to the polls given his health. He wanted to be there last night though, be a part of it. To have his say. To be heard.

We don't talk all that much, my Dad and I. There are wide differences in opinion between us. He doesn't often listen to me because he already has his mind made up. But I could tell he was glad to have voted. To be here for it.

His father, my grandfather, did not have much education. He worked in a factory in Harrison I believe. He worked with his hands in an age when horses and wagons rumbled down the streets of Newark. My grandfather did not understand in some ways why my father made such an effort to go to college and become a pharmacist.

My dad was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. Columbia actually. But he doesn't make too big a deal about it.

So there went my Dad to vote, to witness an historic change that must have seemed like an impossible dream when he was trying to make his way through college. Back then, living the great dream was possible on paper but in practice was hard to fulfill because of the color of our skin.

There are folks out there who have said our votes don't matter. We won't be heard. We were heard last night. We were heard from the evergreen forests of New England to the sandy beaches of California. We were heard on islands in the Pacific Ocean and on the steppes of Russia. We were heard by those who agreed as well as by those who disagreed. And last night the vote was slim in some states but much wider in others. The final count was clear, crystal clear.

But no one should rest quietly now, pat themselves on the back and say "Mission Accomplished." Oh, no. Not in the least.

Last night was a beginning, a resounding reply to a need. We all have work to do now. What this means is we must engage, participate, debate, and communicate in this democratic arena as never before. There are no more excuses for people to be disinterested in the governance of the land. We have a duty to be partners in democracy and must never again hide behind the claim that we are not being heard.

The world is listening now. We must honor this opportunity by saying something worthwhile for ourselves...

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Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away