I voted this morning. In Ohio.
A friend of mine from another state commented to me recently that my vote "really counted" because of where I lived. Believe me, we have been surrounded by political rhetoric here unlike anywhere else I have ever lived through. From multiple daily phone calls to mailings, countless yard signs and near weekly rallies with presidential candidates in attendance, there is an energy and intensity here about this election that is palpable. We feel the pressure.
But while the electoral count hinges greatly on swing states such as Ohio, I disagree with my friend that her vote somehow doesn't count as much as mine.
I am not politically vocal, but I am deeply patriotic. There are no candidate signs in my yard, but I proudly fly my flag. My ancestors have rarely run for civic office, but I have a deep family history of military service — including my own husband. I love this country. I voted today to combine my voice with those of millions to choose my leader. But I will not post who I voted for online. I will not share my political opinions widely nor loudly. Not because I do not care about who is elected, but because I care more about preserving the freedom to choose.
I vividly remember my first experience with communist government. I was traveling with a performing musical group as a young college student. We arrived at the airport in northern Vietnam to armed guards who opened and searched our luggage. Books and personal items were confiscated — deemed inappropriate to even bring into the country. We were instructed about what we were and were not allowed to talk about with citizens, audience members and students with whom we would associate. The feeling in that setting was instantly suffocating. My time there was full of fear and trepidation. I worried constantly about what I was saying and whom I was speaking with. While I dutifully respected the wishes of the country during my visit, I began to understand the value of the freedoms I had enjoyed every day of my American life.
I recently read Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea.” It is a stunning account of six North Korean citizens over 15 years, documenting systematic governmental control, neglect and ultimately starvation of their people. Cut off from what we would consider the very basics of modern civilization, including electricity and access to food, people grew disillusioned with their tyrannical rule and risked life and family to escape their country. Consistently told their sacrifice was for the greater good of the country, many simply wasted away under terrifying sovereign authority.
In the historically based account of 1980s India, author Shilpi Somaya Gowda recounts rampant infanticide, culturally forced abortions and abandonment of countless girls. Her novel “Secret Daughter” brings to light the accepted cultural notion that male heirs are superior offspring due to ancient dowry practices. In poverty stricken areas, girls and women are now being sold or kidnapped into brothels for prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking. According to New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof, of the more than 10 million children prostituted around the world — more are in India than in any other country.
So as I stood peacefully in line this morning with my neighbors, awaiting the opportunity to cast my vote, my thoughts traveled around the globe. I thought of the book I read before going to bed last night, being able to select my choice from a countless number of varying voices in my library. I thought of the breakfast I had eaten before driving to my polling station — how I had been able to simply go to the grocery store and choose amongst thousands of options of nutritious foods. I thought of my beautiful daughter, who I dropped off at a public high school minutes before voting, knowing she would be safe and given equal opportunity to learn there.
No matter who wins today, every vote is important. Every simple ‘X’ marked in a polling station in every state in this country is significant. It is a tangible, visible reminder of freedom — freedom in action, freedom to choose. We choose a leader who will be free of tyranny. We choose a leader who will allow us to continue to decide what we read and what we will say. We choose a leader who will ensure public access to basic necessities of life. We choose a leader who values women and recognizes our worth and contributions to society. We cannot make a wrong choice in this regard.
We have the freedom to choose — and with each and every vote today, we choose freedom.
Anna M. Molgard is a lyricist, composer, poet and yoga instructor. She is the mother of three children and one lovable dog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.