David Wall Rice: Sipping the Kool-Aid and voting early

Monday, November 03, 2008 - 08:54 AM

I've sipped the Kool-Aid. Not the Obama brand, or the McCain for that matter. It was labeled true democracy — flavored red, white and blue. I didn't drink it all mind you, just a sip. The first time I was able to vote was as an undergraduate in school in Atlanta — Clinton vs. Bush 41 in 1992. It was simple enough. I rolled out of bed, probably went to a class or two and strolled to the poll set up in Archer Hall, our auditorium at Morehouse College. No big deal, but a big deal — people died for me to vote, so it was my responsibility to show up. It was the same with Clinton vs. Dole in 1996. This time I was in graduate school in Washington, D.C. Clinton won, again. Whatever. And it was downhill from there.

Miraculously, Texas Governor George W. Bush defeated Vice President Al Gore in 2000 and then, again, mediocrity reigned in Bush 43's win against Senator John Kerry in 2004. I must admit that just before the first term I thought, "Hey, how bad could this be?" I mean, my cousin (right, her) was set to have a high-up gig in the administration. Well, President George W. Bush has pushed us one step short of the apocalypse.

War. A smashed economy. A dumb country. A compromised superpower. This is the fifth time I've voted for president, and the gravity of the ballot and import of the Great Experiment weighs on me — and all of us. Of course, you've heard all of this before. It's cliché. But we've been forced to unpack the entertainment that has been our overlong election season of the recent months — the recent years.

But then, the promise of America is within reach. I was talking with another cousin of mine tonight, Jabari. We were speaking of a new administration. He explained that he was afraid to put words to the possibility, for fear of being let down by a democracy that has let us down so many times before. Indeed.

Adamsville Recreation Center, in southwest Atlanta, was my destination this past Wednesday. I hurried up to wait. Two hours never felt so short. In the booth, I shed a tear or two after seeing the names under the choice for president of the United States of America.

I voted early. And I wasn't the only one. Reports from the Georgia secretary of state's office indicate that close to two million people — 36 percent of Georgia's registered electorate — voted early. Now there were long lines and frustrating moments, no doubt. But it felt good to wait for and to see folks waiting for something that wasn't the newest iPhone or whatever video game system. Especially black folks.

And then yesterday I went to poll-watcher training. Two hours, listening to common-sense-type stuff that will help to "protect the vote." And then on Tuesday, I'll get up at the crack of dawn and put in a 12-hour workday for free to ensure that people's voices are heard.

This is a lot, particularly for a country that enslaved my great, great grandmother, and that will stereotype me a threat no matter whom the next president is. Still, I've sipped the Kool-Aid. And I think it helped to do away with a bit of the apathy and bitterness and shame that I've associated with the United States of America. Just enough to give me hope.

— David Wall Rice

David Wall Rice is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta. His work focuses on personal identity and how it is shaped by external and internal forces.

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