They were lined up to the street outside the El Granada Elementary School at 7 a.m. this morning, and it wasn’t to drop kids off.
That’s really not a surprise, though, given today’s historical election. Even longer lines were expected after 5 o’clock.
Nor was it a surprise to see, stacked behind tables where election officials signed in voters and handed out “Yo Voté! I voted! (Asian characters)” stickers, an enormous coffeemaker lit up, stacks of paper coffee cups and boxes of donuts within easy reach. Those officials, many of retirement age, would be there into the night. “Long as it takes,” said one with a smile.
A little more of a surprise was the crowd of school children in the voting room, accompanied by a teacher explaining things and pointing out election minutiae. At El Granada Elementary, where I go to vote, it’s not unusual to see kids in class, on the playground or otherwise going about school business on election day, depending on what time I get there. But it’s not typical to see them inside the actual voting room. Alert, taking interest, half or less the height of the adults they were observing, craning necks to see everything on the computerized voting platforms.
Only in America, my husband remarked sincerely, looking at the kids, as we entered the voting room. Not entirely true of course, as children worldwide are curious about how adults vote. But a matter of course here, and welcome, he meant.
This country has faults that crop up, not everywhere but obvious like weeds in a garden. We picked through them as we waited to sign in: Economic implosion and environmental erosion. Education versus dumbing down. Communication increasingly dominated by electronics so that conversation and rapport seem to finish second. A drive for personal gain sometimes obliterating values. All reversible, or at least adaptable, phenomena, depending on how much awareness you choose.
The campaigns have been contentious. Punctuated with personal slams. Nothing new there, of course, dating from the founding fathers. But still embarrassing.
And at the end of it all, the human coda, as effective as a well-orchestrated crescendo. Candidates going to hometowns to cast their votes. The death of candidate Barack Obama’s grandmother and the photo of him speaking of her with tears coursing down his face. The Internet abuzz as individuals worldwide look our way to see what their futures might hold. Children seeing the world awaiting them. Election officials gamely sipping coffee with hours to go.
When the political jockeying chaff blows away, it leaves a very human wheat.
And not only in America.