Monday, November 03, 2008
This is Megan Hamilton. She's 13 years old, and she lives with her family—including her 6-year-old sister, who has Down's Syndrome—in a homeless shelter. The economic climate makes it hard for her parents to juggle unreliable work (when gas approaches $4 a gallon, fewer people want their homes painted) and caring for three children.
This is Janice Lengbehn. She was preparing to board a cruise ship in Miami with her family when her partner, Lisa Pond, suddenly suffered a brain aneurysm. At the hospital, Janice was told she was "in an anti-gay state," and that she would not be permitted to visit Lisa. Despite legal documentation that Lisa wanted Janice to make medical decisions for her, the hospital would not allow the two women to be together until the priest arrived to perform the last rites. Neither Janice nor the couple's children got to say goodbye.
This is James Schulze. His son, Jonathan, was devastated by his experience fighting the war in Iraq. Despite the efforts of his family and friends, he found himself behind 25 other veterans on a waiting list for help. But the waiting was unbearable, and Jonathan hanged himself at his family's home. Said his father to the Boston Globe, "My son did his duty, he risked his life for his country, and he came home a broken person."
This is Hu Jia. He is a 35-year-old AIDS activist in China. Faced with a frustrating governmental bureaucracy, he began to advocate for democracy. Chinese officials accused him of "inciting subversion of state power" and sentenced him to three and a half years in prison. His wife and 1-year-old daughter were remanded to house arrest, not even allowed to go outside. Hu Jia suffers from Hepatitis B, and spends his days in solitary confinement with his hands and feet chained.
This is Dorothy Peters. Dorothy is going to cast her vote tomorrow for the first time in her life. She doesn't want to say who she's going to choose, but she's voting for younger generations, she told Lynchburg, Virginia, media. “I feel so bad for them I don’t know what to do. I don’t think about myself—I will be going before long.” She's 91 years old.
This is Luke and Roscoe and Sam. Tomorrow, their owners are spending the day helping people get to the polls who otherwise wouldn't be able to find transportation. They're doing it because they believe in the democratic process, and that it's bolstered by the participation of ALL people.
I'm voting because I can. Because there was a time when I couldn't. Because I cherish my family, and my job, and my house, and my ability to occupy a corner of the world. Because I NEED my protected speech and my protected privacy and my protected womb. Because I can exercise my rights on behalf of people who still don't have any.
Whatever else you do tomorrow, don't be an asshole. VOTE.
(Photos courtesy of John Burgess/The Press Democrat, Steve Bloom/The Olympian, Bill Greene/The Boston Globe, Associated Press, Kim Raff/The News & Advance, and me.)