Hi! Fellow urban dweller here, guest blogging for the DISPLACEMENT series. In light of the Prez’s upcoming re-inauguration, here is a reflection on my first voting experience in North Philly, originally written this past election.
I received invites from two bloggers named Dave (one in Delaware, one in California) to write about the location where I live. I’ve been meaning to sit and write, since it’s good therapy. Therefore, I figured this would be an opportunity to kill multiple birds with one stone.
Today, I voted for the first time in my neighbourhood. I walked 6 blocks, about half a mile, at a dimly lamplit 6 p.m. to get to my polling place.
People tell me I shouldn’t walk by myself in the dark in the city, let alone the inner city. People often express concern for my safety, and occasionally express anger about my decision to move to North Philadelphia. One of my rebuttals would be, “Well, it’s not like I’m walking around by myself at night.” Oops.
I walked toward the entrance and was handed a flyer that said, “HOW TO VOTE DEMOCRAT: PUSH #2 STRAIGHT TICKET,” or something like that.
Flashback to 2008 – my family’s first time voting as U.S. citizens. I went to vote with my mom. She was peeved by my Obama t-shirt. At the front of the line, I gave her a hug and said, “Do the right thing, Mama!” She pushed me away and responded with a shameless, “Aiya! Stop campaining in my face! That’s illegal!”
I looked at the flyer, then looked at the woman. SMH. She asked, “Do you know how to vote? I can tell you if you don’t.” It wasn’t clear if she wanted to tell me how to vote (Democrat) or how to use the electronic voting machines (read the instructions on the machine and follow them).
For a moment I forgot my purpose for living in the community and thought, “Whyyyyeee would I choose to live here if I weren’t a Democrat?!?!” Though my Republican friends get on my nerves sometimes, I was indignant, wondering how someone from their party might feel alienated if they were registered at this election site. I also felt defensive towards her hypothetical assumption that I wouldn’t be able to read how to use the machines, perhaps because I’m Asian.
So, I didn’t end up voting straight ticket, partially out of spite at the flyer, partially because the electronic machine was so easy. T’was definitely less labourious than the bubble sheet I filled out 4 years ago in Michigan, while living the dental school life of constantly filling out bubble sheets to the point of tears.
A few hours later, as I write this, I am annoyed at myself: for being inconsistent between what I say and what I do, for not wanting to be labelled or typecast based on my life decisions or group identities… yet wanting to label myself, and for letting go of my primary identity and prioritizing an identity that I normally don’t prioritize. I think this is what makes it difficult to live in and write about my experience in ‘da hood. I want to discover and articulate generalities about cultural behaviour, because maybe understanding will make me feel more in control. But, I can’t even predict my own thoughts and reactions half the time.
As mentioned above, therapy is needed. Hopefully, if I can keep this writing up, I will be more sane, though perhaps appearing more insane to you, poor reader.