Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day in my neighborhood...

First off...this is not a "You should vote for this person" post nor is it an opening for a debate. I am so weary of those. This is a glimpse into what's happening where I live. I don't care who you vote for (JUST VOTE DAMMIT!) because I know you have excellent reasons for doing so. Please don't turn this into a discussion about the candidates or various policies. This is post about people and where I live.

I have heard a lot from the media and people I know that Hope is not Platform. And I just wanted to give a little peek into what Hope really is this election. At first I walked around my neighborhood and took pictures of the boarded up buildings, of the little kids riding giant sized bikes around the crappy littered playground, the crumbling tarmac playground at the public elementary school, the drug deal, the police breaking up a domestic dispute or interrogating a row of young African-American men lined up on the curb, the line at our food pantry that gets longer every day. I wanted to try and put into pictures what I can't describe in words. The desperation. the hopelessness, the oppression of poverty.

Now please don't get me wrong. I love my neighborhood. My family has never been more happily situated among neighbors who adore my children. Have showered us with love, support, and casseroles. Have given us a complete community to be a part of. I love that my children are growing up among immigrants and gays and nuns. I love that my son said he wanted to vote for Barack Obama because he has a brown face and people with brown faces are really smart. (But, I hate that the same son came home worried from school and told us that his classmate assured him that if John McCain became president he would make all the brown people leave.) But the gap between rich and poor span mere houses. One block then the next. We're all jumbled up together here and its a class/race thing to be sure. The majority of property owners are white. The majority of renters are non-white. The tensions and fears on both sides can be felt very acutely.

But, that is not the way it is today.

Today is election day. After Chowder and I voted my original set of pictures seemed very wrong. The feeling of hope was bouying. You see hope brings about very concrete realities. When people feel that have a fighting chance, that they have the power to change their own lives and realities, well that is when things get better. Having a non-white, son of an immigrant, raised by a single mother man running for president is no small thing. It means there is a possibility for everyone. And when you feel the possibilities are real, you act on it.

Those pictures are still very much a part of my life and neighborhood. But no one is seeing them today. When I went around my neighborhood today and took pictures, my eyes were literally filled with tears. There is no way to describe the feeling that is in the air. I felt it in the churches, the Ethiopian restaurant, the tattoo parlor, the Afghani market, the Vietnamese video store, the halal butcher, the pawn shop, the Uhuru hair salon, the dog park, the coffee shop...

the feeling of hope.


Bridgett said...

I wanted to do this myself--because what you've said here completely resonates with my own experience right across the big street that divides our neighborhoods. Hope isn't a platform, but I'm tired of hopelessness. Tired of my government mocking democracy and getting away with it. I don't know what the next four years will hold, and I pray that I made the right choice--but, no, it's more that I pray that some of this hope comes to fruition, more than I pray whether I should have voted for one or the other candidates. I KNOW I made the right choice today. I just hope it plays out how it should.

JLP said...

I felt it too, and from a completely different place in the country. From my cookie-cutter, upper-middle class, predominantly white suburban Chicago neighborhood. In reality it was probably just me, as my county tends to be quite red, but my state is blue and I'm proud to be part of it. And when I was walking from the junior high where we vote, a car pulled up and an African-American man and woman stopped me to ask "How long was the line to vote?" and I told them under 15 minutes, and they clapped and said "All right!" Their excitement was so palpable, it made me even more proud. I really hope we are making history today. History that we can proudly teach our children.

(On a sour note, my dumb-arse DH did not properly register and was turned away! So if Illinois ends up coming down to one vote, you'll know who to blame.)

KellyLynn said...

I have hope! I love how much kidergarteners have come home from school, knowing the names of each of the 4 ppl running. We waited for them to come home from school so we could go vote! here is their picture, its full of hope! Here is to my future voters of 2021.

Elizabethw said...

Thanks for your always moving commentaries.


Elizabethw said...

Thanks for your always moving commentaries.