As November 6 approaches, and amid all the squeamishness I am feeling about the privileged way we do politics in this country, I am thinking about the “right” to vote.
June 4, 1919: The 19th Amendment finally offered women the right to vote in this country.
Except. Only White Women. Women put their bodies on the line for this right. They went to jail. They were beaten. They were brutally force-fed during hunger strikes. They were called terrible names, and experienced social shaming that destroyed their reputations. And they were white women, and they fought for white women. Some of my heras from that fight were notably silent on the subject of race. Others actively campaigned against women of color being included in the mix.
On this hand over here, I honor them for their selfless and courageous fight. They saw their moment and they took it, and the world was at least a marginally better place for it.
On this hand over here, though: Is it a victory, really, if it actively marginalizes such a large number of us?
My heras have feet of clay. Fatal flaws. Lack of real vision and insight and completely human compassion. Still, their work paved the way. But not for all of us. Did it at least open the door for all of us?
The Snyder Act, in 1924, finally gave the country’s original inhabitants the right to vote, five years after white women could vote. And looking at the kinds of voter suppression that took place for African American people after white people finally passed the 15th Amendment, it’s likely that many Native American women didn’t vote until much later.
While the 15th Amendment in 1870 ostensibly gave African American men the right to vote, we don’t have to look so far back into the mists of history to see how recently the Voting Rights Act was passed, to REALLY give black people the right to vote. It was on 1965, two years before I was born, and I’m not that old. So, while my grandmothers could have voted if they’d wanted to (it was against their religious principles, so they didn’t), my grandmothers’ African American sisters couldn’t vote until they were in their forties or fifties.
So this year I won’t be posting any images of the white suffragettes marching for women’s right to vote, as door-opening as that period was, as sacrificial as they were. And I am having trouble celebrating any movement to bring about ACTUAL Democratic voting in this country while the Supreme Court can take away the voting rights of First Nations people in North Dakota, while unscrupulous people are suppressing the black vote in Georgia, while elderly black voters are removed from a bus taking them to a polling place. There are more stories. Look them up.
I will honor the intent of the suffragettes who fought for the right to vote, for the doors they opened, and I will truly celebrate the life and work of the tireless Congressman John Lewis, who nearly died in the fight to bring about the Voting Rights Act.
There will always be undemocratic forces in this country that try to garner power for their own ends, to control the people. Voting, and fighting for the voice of all people to vote, is part of the bedrock of the democratic process. And I will speak out–and I beg you to speak out, too–for the rights of ALL Americans to vote for those who are chosen to speak for us in the halls of power.
1. Good fiction. I am listening to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. I don’t know why post-apocalyptic literature is so charmingly comforting in these difficult times. Perhaps it has to do with reminding me that things aren’t as bad as all that. Yet. Feel free to psychoanalyze me.
2. Speaking Truth to Power–all the people who do so
3. Cool fall days
4. The river, the river, the river
5. Magical, prayerful, contemplative acts
May we walk in Beauty!
Rhapsody Part 7 – Mary Oliver
If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves.
If you are in the sea I will slide into that
smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt.
But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation.
I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster.
And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady, with
some small and easy story.
Promises, promises, promises! The tongue jabbers, the heart
strives, fails, strives again. The world is perfect.
is an opera, a history, a long walk, that
includes falling and rising, falling and rising, while
the heart stays as sweet as a peach, as radiant and
grateful as the deep leaved hills.
“You either walk inside your story & own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” ~BRENÉ BROWN
Duck, duck, goose.
Goose, goose, wren.
Mist, moon, mist.
“Live the question now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke
“and if i hear one more time
about a fool’s rights
to his tools of rage
I’m gonna take all my friends
and I’m gonna move to Canada
and we’re gonna die of old age” –Ani Difranco
2 thoughts on “Mist, Moon, Mist”
The issue of suffrage seems so much, to me, like evolution. We don’t generally know where it’s headed, at any particular point, but when we look back, we can see the steps taken to get us here.
And ‘steps’ it is. It’s not smooth and fluid, no gentle slope uphill. It’s always things are fine, big jump to new quantum level, things are fine again (until the next motivation forces the next big jump.)
And, evolutionarily speaking, nature is highly conservative. What works (or worked) is kept, held to tightly even if or when a time comes it no longer works, until, practically by force, we try something new, we evolve.
So I’m inclined to cut the folks some slack, those who *only* accomplished one seemingly (in retrospect) partial victory. That by-comparison small struggle was a monumental one, once. And the first paved the way for the next.
We never seem to (and we don’t seem capable of doing so) make the huge step in one fell swoop. Even a complete overthrow, like the American Revolution (in a positive direction) or the quiet coup executed over the past three to four decades (in the other direction) occurs only in timid little footsteps, rife with fear and trepidation.
Just like looking back over the fossil record, I appreciate the transitional forms that existed, which represent departures from what was but which were wholly unaware of what forms they’d transition into next.
Yes! Excellent points! I do want to honor those who made the small steps. I think I became disillusioned when I learned that some of those small steps were actually made by women who were actively working against voting rights for women of color.