ohio last day to register!!!
first thing, we parked the truck at a strip mall bordering a busy east cleveland street, euclid ave - fast becoming our favorite street in cleveland. there were two malls on either side of the busy 4 laned street, as well a couple of bus stops. bus stops are also great places to register voters! we hit both malls, the parking lots, bus stops, shops inside & outside. later, we ran into two act volunteers also registering folks so we fanned out into the surrounding neighborhood to go door-to-door! we went into several apartment complexes, left voter info at unanswered doors, spoke w/voters at open doors & registered a couple of folks.
as we were walking up the hill to a giant high-rise, a womon in an old mercury colt pulled over next to us & in a cloud of noxious fumes, handed me a crumpled voter reg card, the corner with the hint of orange baby food scrubbed clean. i noticed the form was missing the last 4 digits of her social security number, which she didn't know by heart. alarmed, she asked me if i could wait until she ran home, gesturing up the hill, and got the number. i agreed to wait altho i was concerned w/her car's ability to make the journey, especially to tackle the steep (for ohio) hill in front of us.
rae & ariel proceeded to the apartment complex while i waited & in a few minutes called to let me know one of them was on the 24th floor, the other on the 16th floor - i told them i'd come in & start on the 8th floor.
several minutes later, ayisha returned, in the same old mauroon beat-up car and smiling so triumphantly, handed me her completed form!
i headed off to the apartment building, thinking proudly of all the people in ohio that have made such tremendous efforts to register to vote, to have their voice heard: like this womon, like the disabled womon who called weekly for 4 months until we registered her, like the young & very pregnant couple on the subway who registered at motor vehicles before they got pregnant and still hadn't received their confirmation cards, like all the ex-felons who thought they were told they couldn't vote. i've heard so many stories from people registering for the first time in their lives - not just 18 or 19 year olds, but 30 and 50 and 67 year old folks, so determined to have their voice heard, so aware & committed to having their voice heard in this particular election when it hasn't been important before, so fiercely dedicated to defeat this president.
perhaps if ayisha hadn't gone thru such an effort to register let alone the gas money she spent tracking us down, perhaps if i hadn't been thinking of all the hope and determination i've seen on so many ordinary, every day american citizen's faces, perhaps if it wasn't the last day to register to vote, then i might not have tried so hard to get into the apartment building. but i did. when i strolled up to the huge glass doors, tried the locked handles and began looking around for a way to get in - afterall, weren't rae & ariel already upstairs? - the womon at the huge sprawling desk, about 20 feet away, yelled thru the distance & the double glass doors, what did i want? i told her i'd like to come in and register voters. she told me i wasn't allowed. baffled, i asked "i'm not allowed to register voters?" thinking maybe she didn't hear me correctly. 'no solicitors' is what she shouted back. i told her i wasn't soliciting, i was assisting citizens in fulfilling their responsibilities as patriotic americans. she said i wasn't allowed in the building. i tried everything - for ayisha's sake & those like her, just in case. i begged, i pleaded, i said this was the very last day to register. she said she was calling the cops. oopps. this time i said no need, i'll leave and off i went back down the hill. i hastily called rae & ariel to let them know what happened & to urge them to hurry & watch out for the ugly one on the first floor.
back at the mall, i registered a young african american man, nathan, voting for the first time. he seemed sweet & anxious to register, deciding to disregard his boss's stern stare as he gave me his info. he smiled broadly, shook my hand, thrilled he was registered! i moved on to register another womon holding an infant in her arms a few isles away. as i was recording her info, i didn't pay much attention to the conversation nathan had begun w/a few of his buddies, all who were already registered. then the words 'homosexuals' & not wanting his grandchildren to see them and marriage is between a man & a woman floated into my space. i held the card out for the womon to sign, and then turned to go speak w/him the same time his frowning boss was heading down the isle toward the small group of men. i went outside for a few moments, found more voters to speak with, and then returned. i asked nathan when his break was, telling him i wanted to talk with him. he told me his boss had left & we could speak now.
i told him i had overheard his conversation about homosexuals & i wasn't sure i really understood what he had said. indeed, he was very concerned, at 18 years old, that one day very far in the future when he had grandchildren, he didn't want them to see two men holding hands with a child between them or two wimmin having a couple of children between them. he was nodding emphatically & vigorously as he rushed to assure me or maybe himself this wouldn't happen anytime soon but maybe by the time he had grandchildren. i asked him how come he felt this way and he trotted out the bible argument along with what is normal & right - and homosexuals weren't either. altho he does know homosexuals, waving vaguely over his shoulder, and he has nothing against them - nothing other than wanting to make his beliefs into law, i point out.
we talk for a long time - i bring up all the times marriage has been legislated in this country and how those people also found biblical support for those laws. i tell him how much he & his reasons sound just like those white males or those white people who enslaved people or those rich white property owners - the same attitudes behind the same laws.
nathan's bottom line was god didn't make homosexuals - they were made heterosexual & chose to be homosexual. rather than get into the arguement about who the hell cares, choice or biology, we still have the right to be whomever we want to be in life, i looked into his young, open, sincere eyes & told him god made everyone, including heterosexuals, and do you really want to tell me who i should love?
nathan then told me he'd never had this conversation with anyone from the opposing (my) side and he really appreciated me talking w/him. he promised to think about it as i gave him some literature.
rae called me just then to tell me they were heading back down the hill, with the police on their heels! apparently the good ugly one had discovered we had already infiltrated her domain and called the cops! we had a plan to ride the trains during rush hours anyway, so off we went, around the corner to catch the subway. we spent the next 3 hours on the trains, registering voters & talking with people. trains in cleveland are only 2 cars long so we could cover the whole train in 2 or 3 stops. we also hung out in the center of the train station, tower station i think it is called, that is at the bottom on a huge shopping mall downtown cleveland - the place where we tried to park the truck up on the street a few days earlier.
to be continued....