Can I just say that free Japanese beer is the best incentive ever to do phone banking? Last night I was calling people in Pennsylvania, trying to get them to register as Democrats so they can help “redefeat the President” in November. I called about thirty names, got a bunch of answering machines, some people who were already registered Democrats and very friendly, a couple assholes, and one lady who I totally thought I had in the bag. She was really old, told me that she “stopped caring about things after her husband died,” and in general sounded very lonely. I loved this lady, and also realized that she is just the type of person for whom voting can be important. It gives you something to think about other than death, reaffirms your place in the world, gives you something to talk about with others. Basically it prevents you from becoming a ghost as was obviously happening to this woman.
The whole night I had been wondering
about how useful it was to try and register people to vote over the phone. Isn’t it a kind of weird thing to do? How would I respond if some volunteer from some PAC I’d never heard of called me up and asked for my social security number? Weird. Anyway, it suddenly became clear to me why it was important to reach out, why some people might just need someone to call them and give them a gentle shove. When the woman told me she didn’t even know how to register, I told her I could do it for her on the phone, she didn’t have to give me any information she didn’t want, and that I would mail her the form for her signature. Then I started pandering a little bit to the protectionist tendencies of many Americans these days, especially in Pennsylvania where they have been hit especially hard, and talked about the loss of manufacturing jobs under the Bush administration, Pennsylvania’s role as a swing state, the importance of every vote, etc.
She seemed interested until she asked me where I was calling from. I told her I was a volunteer working with the ReDefeat Bush PAC. Then she asked me again, “WHERE are you calling from?” I told her I was in New York and she became immediately suspicious. “What is this, some kind of joke?” I said no, I was simply volunteering for a cause I believe in, and she said “You’re playing a joke on me, I’m not interested.” I asked her if I could mail her a blank form. She refused and hung up. Crushed, not only because this lady was my last call and I hadn’t registered a single person, but also because I felt like I had failed her, I glumly ate my delicious sushi plate and decided to come back the next week.
I couldn’t help but think about my grandmother, who definitely began fading from view after my grandfather (her ex-husband) died. The same year, her husband, her brother, and her nephew died. She passed away that year too, in a hotel room while she was visiting her disabled son (my uncle that I’ve never met) who was being mistreated by his caregivers. She was diabetic and hadn’t been taking her insulin correctly for some time, and it made me wonder if she just wasn’t paying attention, or whether it was a little on purpose that she strayed from her regiment. Was it more or less lonely for her to pass away in some strange hotel room than in her own house surrounded by memories of people who are gone?
I moved around a lot my whole life, so there isn’t really a place that I can go back to right now that has so much built into it, or absorbed into it, as my grandmother’s house. She raised a family and lived into old age in that same house, which she ultimately occupied by herself after everyone else had left her. I guess I’ll have a home like that some day, unless I become a nomadic queer that flits back and forth from Europe every couple years for the rest of his life, forever restless and unfulfilled. I don’t think that’s what will happen, but I don’t really want to end up like my grandmother either. I’m going to promise myself that I will always care about things, even in the midst of the most devastating disasters.
Anyway, the moral of the story is: vote, even if your vote might not be counted because of corrupt Republican investments in electronic voting technologies.