Sending ballots on their way and an old phrase with ignoble origins

President* Trump,

Our ballots came this afternoon! We’re going to sit down and do the research on the less obvious contests and issues this evening and will make the ceremonial ballot drop off trip tomorrow some time. Yee-hah!

I have two rather poetic, if totally unrealistic, mental images of all the millions of mail-in ballots finding their ways to where they’ll be tallied up. The first is of so many messages carefully packaged (no naked ballots) into so many bottles, each of which is tenderly set into a stream or river and willed on its way. The second is of miniaturized ballots affixed to resurrected carrier pigeons’ legs and flown speedily to the nearest counting station.

Both images are exceedingly silly, I know, but this election is so huge and feels so mythic in scope that I think our ballots feel extra special precious this time around and thus deserve extra special treatment.

Did you see the WP piece about the Michigan man who willed himself to live long enough (he had terminal colon cancer) to cast his vote just as soon as their early voting there started? (here’s the link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/one-last-vote/2020/10/16/785419e4-0fd4-11eb-b1e8-16b59b92b36d_story.html) It’s a really poignant piece but it has a rotten twist at the end when the reader learns that his vote won’t count because he didn’t live until November 3rd. Not all states have that rule, but that any of them do is a major bummer. I guess the saving grace for the man in the story is that as far as he knew, he did his part to vote you out of office (his son said that this is what he was hanging on to do), and that’s a lovely thing.

I’ve got another new-to-me thing about voting to share with you today from the WP. In his sobering column about how the GOP has cranked us back to the 19th century in terms of racist voter suppression (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/when-it-comes-to-suppression-of-black-votes-its-the-19th-century-all-over-again/2020/10/16/68e22f1e-0f07-11eb-8a35-237ef1eb2ef7_story.html), Colbert King referenced the use of the “grandfather clause” to enfranchise poor illiterate Whites but keep Blacks who couldn’t read from voting. This tactic was used in the South (no surprise there) and the way it worked was that if a man could claim that his grandfather (or father) voted before the Civil War, then that man could vote and since only White men could vote before the Civil War, only White men could claim this exemption.

Did you know that was where the “grandfather clause” came from? I always found the phrase annoying because it felt sexist, but I had no idea about its racist origins. The practice was horrible and it’s appalling how the phrase has slipped into common usage to the point where it seems like it’s just a benign shorthand for someone getting to go by old rules when new ones are instituted. It’s really quite incredible, and not in a good way, the extent to which racism (and sexism) permeates our culture in ways that are invisible to so many of us (and least I think most White people are in the same oblivious boat that I’ve been sailing along in….).

We certainly have a shit-ton of work to do.

May we all be safe from invisible (and visible) oppressive practices.
May we be willing to unpack the history that got us here.
May we have the strength to reimagine and reinvent how we are together.
May we accept the discomfort and sorrow that comes with seeing what needs to be seen.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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