Later, when we were older, she volunteered on voting days at the same courthouse, bringing with her a pound cake to be shared with other poll workers and local judges who snagged a slice.
I might have figured out voting is not only a right but an obligation on my own, but having a good role model paved the way.
My mother did not come from a family in lock-step, politically. Her two brothers were shushed more than once at holiday gatherings as they held forth on candidates and local issues.
One brother ran for the school board, won, then complained he could not finish his supper without taking a call from an angry parent.
These days, our complaints, fired off in emails, would allow him dessert, yet we are vocal when polled by phone, witnessing to our frustrations as the body politic. Too often, the value of a vote is shrugged off.
It’s not that we are whistling “Happy Days Are Here Again.” The only institutional leaderships we grant a “thumbs up” are the military and the layers of police protection keeping us safe.
Less than one-third of us accept as gospel the rulings of the Supreme Court and our confidence in decisions made in the Oval Office is at an all-time low.
Even my opinionated uncle could not shore up faith in the public school system and our fellow citizens often find the criminal justice system needing an overhaul.
We’ve practically washed our hands of any hope of wisdom in Congress. Only seven percent of us witness to “a great deal of confidence in elected representatives and senators.”
And, in a recent poll, two-thirds asked responded, “No” to the question “Is this country headed in the right direction?”
So, it should follow, in this season of our discontent, an account of record numbers of voters casting ballots. Lord knows we are not shy in voicing our disillusionment with public service. We are not happy with big money controlling political media buys, but, ironically, we cannot claim applause as a generation of die-hard voters.
This is not an original idea, but if voting is not the difference between change and the status quo, why are there such devious plans afoot to influence a vote or discourage the right to cast one?
Could be we’ve come to see our absences in the voting booth as a statement of refusing to buy into false promises or slick advertising misrepresenting a candidate’s ethics.
But is it better to be counted in the 83 percent of Cobb County voters who were no shows in the last election? Consider this a reminder: “Checking out” is surrendering to the smoke and mirrors of a campaign.
Shouldn’t giving up in the face of dueling political egos leave us to wonder: Is it part of the plan to wear us down, to tempt us to stay at home on Election Day, to throw up our hands and say “Who will hear my voice in the halls of influence and among the bundlers of money?”
In a scene from a movie, filmed on the life of Nelson Mandela, he is standing before a crowd, his people, marginalized for generations. Thousands wait to hear him say, “This is our time for revenge. Burn down government buildings. Use ropes and chains against those in power.”
But the man who had been beaten and imprisoned does not. His country has been torn apart for too long. He speaks, instead, with empathy, understanding the anger, but knowing more killing will not bring his people the right to be treated fairly under the law.
“Vote,” he says. There will be no beating of swords into ploughshares. The swords will become paper ballots, weapons of change, delivering swift justice and equality. Vote!
Judy Elliott is a longtime resident of Marietta.