It can be exhausting to be a citizen in this nation of 330,000,000 people. But I also know how hard we must work to govern ourselves – establishing a fair justice system, providing the tranquility and general welfare we desire and the defense we need – to live in freedom and pass on to future generations a union more perfect than we found it. It is demanding, grueling work to ensure that every single citizen has access to equal rights of liberty and law – and that no person is above the law. This labor on behalf of our country is loud and raucous and exasperating, but we cannot abandon the search for ways of together accomplishing our national priorities.
I am also exhausted by the political shorthand of colors used and misused for far too long, so my heart cheered a Facebook post consisting of three U.S. maps. A completely blue map appeared under “Some Want This,” with “Others Want This” printed over a red map. My map choice, entitled “I Want This,” was covered with the American flag. I want Old Glory – her colors of red, white, and blue in balanced harmony – waving over the land of the free.
I also visualize our flag and country spangled with stars of hope that we can work together diligently toward the more perfect union referenced by our forefathers. Despite strife-filled months of campaigning and coronavirus, I have felt occasionally uplifted by certain stars shining over our nation. Each of those stars has added a moment of hope that we citizens can replace our polarizing divisiveness with new levels of agreement guiding us back to the united part of our country’s name.
One such star appeared during the election process. Political rhetoric in any era can cause anxiety, even distress: our era has been no different. But the state governments toiled to create and strengthen voting systems to allow 240,000,000 of us to cast ballots, should we choose to do so.
For almost a month, we Ohioans voted in the manner that best suited us. I carefully contemplated the choices on my absentee ballot in the quiet of my home. Friends and family stood in line to vote early or on November 3. Others marked their ballots before sending them through the mail or placing them in the monitored drop box. A certain electricity across the country resulted in proudly-displayed “I Voted” stickers, thousands of first-time voters, and an historic national voting rate of 66.8% in a country that too often squanders its voting opportunities.
Another bright star was the peaceful atmosphere surrounding Election Day. Tensions presaged possible unrest or violence at polling locations. And yet voters arrived and departed without incident, having taken advantage of a privilege not guaranteed or even available everywhere in the world.
I consider every single poll worker, many civic-minded volunteers, a bright national star. They served our country, carrying out their duties capably and as efficiently as possible – in light of the almost 160,000,000 ballots cast. Bravo!
Whenever and however we voted, we must remember the historical star that graced the 2020 election. A mere 100 years ago, female citizens were accorded the right to vote, to influence the decisions of the government. Courageous women who came before us gave their all so that they and we could have a voice in the direction of our country’s progress.
Another star rose over America when Kamala Harris became Vice President-Elect. The string of firsts now attached to her name includes first woman elected to that position, first woman of color, first South Asian American, first with Indian and Jamaican parents. Regardless of individual voter preference, her election has strengthened our bedrock tenets of equality and inclusiveness.
There was another star of hope having nothing to do with the election and everything to do with average Americans working to make our country and the world a better place. Mindy Lensman recently shared: Please be kind to others! In Urbana I saw an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair stuck in mud and unable to cross at the crosswalk. Drivers kept driving by him. I ran across the street to help, along with four other ladies. The five of us lifted that power chair out of the mud and onto the sidewalk! Not pretty, but we got it done! I stopped traffic to let him cross. A semi-driver even stopped and waited for him. Let’s all be kind to one another. Politics are important, but our nation’s survival depends on how we treat each other.
And just as the polls opened last Tuesday, Ann Randall, bless her starry heart, posted the We Are the World video from 1985. Teary-eyed, I played and replayed it, watching Michael Jackson, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, and others 35 years ago remind us: we are the ones who make a brighter day/it’s time to lend a hand to life/we are the world.
It is abundantly clear: we must work together to make our country and the world a better place for the little stars to whom we will bequeath this planet. Nine-year-old Keegan and five-year-old Olivia discussing their future plans: Keegan, when we are old enough, do you wanna go voting together?/ Yes, but we have to research the candidates first so we know who we are voting for.
Oh, those little but mighty stars spangled with hope…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.