Today marks America’s 57th presidential election. So far, forty-four Presidents have been elected over a span of 223 years. The names marked and scanned and ranked on the millions of ballots cast today will determine the course of the U.S. and, in many ways, the world—the aftershocks of America’s decision reverberating into our collective future.
This is the fourth time I’ve cast my vote for President. At nineteen, I made the four-hour roundtrip drive home from University because I’d forgotten to register absentee. It was the Bush/Gore race of 2000 and I was determined that my vote should (that it would!) count. There, at a teeny tiny polling locale in rural Virginia, I walked past the empty Gore table (indicative of my county’s party affiliation) and marched into a booth, proudly casting my vote for the guy who would, after many weeks of heated dispute, lose the election.
I’ve voted in every election since, once in Chicago, once from a tiny town in northern Canada and, more recently, I connected the broken arrow on the 2012 ballot while hunched over my dining room table in Vancouver. I vote every time, even now, hopeful that my absentee ballot will make a difference. American friends inquire, “So, you can still vote?” Canadian acquaintances have asked me why I care.
Yes, I can vote. And yes, I care. Deeply.
After almost six years in Canada, I still feel separation pangs. They become sharper during times of celebration (4th of July, birthdays, New Years) and times of big, important change (election season).
Four years ago, I watched the election results from the edge of my couch, my heart racing as each successive polling place closed, Obama’s victory slowly morphing from longshot to inevitability. Giddy with excitement, I phoned my friends in Chicago. They were celebrating in Grant Park, the site of Obama’s victory speech, and the energy and joy were palpable. I wanted, with every fiber of my being, to stand beside them in that park at that moment, witnessing history firsthand.
Instead, standing in my living room thousands of miles away, I popped a bottle of champagne and toasted the future. My heart riding the wave of possibility, there I was, having a very American moment in the middle of Canada.
On this election day, I think about the people I love and the people I don’t even know, the many millions who comprise a flawed but beautiful country. A country that is (more and more lately) defined by divisiveness and party affiliation than it is united by commonalities. I think about all of the possibility still lying in wait for us. From my distant perch, I listen for it: that collective intake of breath as the votes are cast, the dream of a reality that is stronger and brighter. Better still.