Maren is a writer of many genres who tries to survive and stay sane ALL the time,but especially during world crises such as viral pandemics.
Torres Grocery in the City of Lancaster, PA
One Fine Saturday
“Un regalo,” I chuckled as I handed him the informational flyer. Above my COVID face mask, my eyes twinkled and he grinned at me.
“What – no GREEN paper?” he responded, digging into his pants pocket to pull out an impressive wad of twenties.
I laughed and pigeon-Spanished that the twenties should be his gift to me!
He wasn’t having any of that, but he was jumping into the game of relaxed jokes with a clipboard-wielding old gringa walking his block on a sunny Saturday morning.
It’s October 2020. In the fractured and divided states of what used to be “America,” a very important national election looms one month hence.
Let’s just call it from my perspective:
Bad Guys have been wringing all the goodness out of my country for close to four years. During this time, citizens have also been learning about additional tragic flaws in our system that have oppressing fellow Americans for way too long (decades, even centuries.)
Systemic injustices and barriers.
Lowdown bullying, dirty tricks and Olympian hypocrisy.
It’s enough to make a sane person want to expatriate.
In lieu of that, it is making a lot of sane, decent people become much more active in the political and social justice arenas.
Thus, one of my many pursuits during COVID shutdown (oh yes, the USA currently also sucks at public health) is personally engaging the traditionally underserved populations in my county to encourage them to vote. Personally. Eye-to-eye, which incidentally CAN be done while wearing a face mask, although our vice president is too stupid to figure that out.
In General, I Hate Politics
Political science, governance, civics -- B-O-R-I-N-G.
News -- D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-N-G.
I realize now that I was sliding along without doing full “adulting.” My voting was erratic for reasons I am too embarrassed to disclose. School taught me neither the sacrifices suffragettes made, nor the torture they endured, to obtain women’s right to vote. Thus, I had no burden of appreciation or guilt weighing upon my enfranchised shoulders. And, I had the insidious covert White Privilege attitude making me feel that my government would take care of me, so I didn’t need to be a watchdog.
I am now “woke.”
In the City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Today was my first tour of “getting out the vote (GOTV)” for the 2020 election. It is SO weird with COVID distancing restrictions.
In 2008, campaign volunteers knocked on doors, talked to folks, and put hangtags (letter-sized cardboard notices with information about our recommended candidate) on doorknobs.
None of that is safe or respectful in October 2020.
Today, my gringa partner and I carried brochures and flyers and walked the sidewalks. Our mission was to engage any person we found standing outside and to randomly leave our flyers wedged in a fence or porch railing if we could do so from the sidewalk.
Bodegas Are Heroes
May I say that? Is it grammatically or logically correct?
When I campaigned for President Obama in 2008, a bodega across from a public housing project permitted the field organizers to run an electric cable into the store. They also permitted volunteers (busloads from out of state as well as locals) to come inside to use the bathroom if we made a small purchase. That was a significant gift to our workers.
Today, the local GOTV team set up a table outside the Torres Market at the corner of South Ann and Green Streets. We walking volunteers collected our maps of assigned blocks, our flyers, packets, and paper applications for registering to vote (English and Spanish) and off we went.
“Don’t go over there, you’ll see two dead mice!” a girl on her porch shouted to a pack of elementary age children playing and riding razor scooters on the sidewalk.
Having fun is a good way to communicate with another. Since I was absolutely even with her house as she bellowed the warning, I looked up with my smiling eyes and exclaimed, “Yum!” She and her parents laughed.
We talked to her mom about whether she was registered to vote and left our materials. All the kids were watching and listening and started shouting out how many years until they would reach age 18 and be able to vote. They were exploding with excited anticipation about attaining this right and (rite) of adulthood. It absolutely warmed my heart.
All the kids were watching and listening and started shouting out how many years until they would reach age 18 and be able to vote. They were exploding with excited anticipation about attaining this right . . .
On a different block I talk with two men relaxed and standing by a parked car. They were both registered and were really hungry for my information about how to mail in a ballot. (They thanked me profusely.) I explained the process with the two envelopes and signing the outside envelope (this is the system with mail-in ballots in PA.) When I urged them to apply and then mail their votes very quickly, we were on the same page. They were aware of concerns for efficient mail delivery because the Bad Guys are trying to suppress voting in our state. And, during a during a deadly pandemic! One of the gentlemen shared that he hopes God takes care of the baddest Bad Guy, but if that didn’t happen, this man was ready with his ballot! I loved them!
In the Lancaster area, families of high school seniors who graduated “virtually” in this pandemic shutdown year have placed signs on their porches or lawns congratulating their graduate. It is such a tender display of familial pride in their child’s accomplishment. As I passed a porch displaying a sign with a male graduate’s name, a man coincidentally came out the front door. I asked if he was the student (obviously too old, but it gave me something to talk about.) He happily replied, “No, he is MY SON.” I asked if each were registered to vote. The dad proudly affirmed both are. We chatted about their plan – in-person versus mail – and it was just a lovely exchange between strangers who are on the same mission – to build a good country.
If you are wondering about the man with the twenties, we think he had not yet registered. It was not totally clear. He stated that he wanted to do in-person voting but didn’t know where to go. On our flyer we showed him the phone number for the County Election Board and coached him to what to ask and tell them in order to learn where his polling place will be. He also thanked us for being out and helping people.
One woman chatted with me and said she couldn’t vote because she was not yet a citizen. I overheard another person in a similar exchange with a bilingual volunteer at the table. She poignantly asked if he could help speed up the process to become a citizen; she wanted it so urgently.
I often ended my conversations with a “God bless you.” I figured the demographics there were a heavy Roman Catholic population. So, I took a chance and threw that in. Not so much to win people over to my side (well, maybe a little), but I really meant it.
God blessed Lancaster, Pennsylvania with their presence and we need them to bless us back through their active participation in the election process.
It seems all election and volunteer organizations try to get volunteers to commit to another duty shift before leaving. Since I have been biting off more than I can chew in this regard, I respectfully wiggled out of it with an “I know how to reach you” statement.
The Real What’s Next Is You
If you have read to the end of this article, a kindred spirit stirs somewhere within you.
What can you do? What candidates do you think will make the divided states a better place to live?
How can you help them?
It’s so easy – search your political party and the type of help you can give. For example, enter “Democrats PA phone bank” or “Get out the vote.” You will find many organizations and grass root efforts that have a you-sized spot just waiting to be filled.
Enter your contact information. Make the text. Click the “Yes, I’m in” button. Do it now.
Every drop in the bucket of support helps.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Maren Elizabeth Morgan
Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on October 11, 2020:
Linda Crampton, I must confess that in the past I took voting for granted. Over the years I have seen how much improvement is needed to help all citizens be able to vote. In my state of Pennsylvania, the rules are very oppressive and inconvenient for real, hard-working people. It is sad, but it is change-able! Thanks for your comment.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 05, 2020:
Thank you for encouraging people to vote, Maren. The upcoming election is very important. I am concerned about the future of your country and about the future of the other countries that it affects in some way. You are providing a valuable service.