I waited 2hours and 10 minutes to vote. In 2020, even in the middle of a pandemic, there are still so many unnecessary hurdles to exercise one’s right to vote. I woke up at 6am, excited to vote, knowing that my vote may not make a difference in my state, but I still got ready, and left the house. By the time I stood in line, it was 6:30 am. Although the polls opened at 6am, we were not moving. In fact the line was at a standstill at 6:30am and growing.

The wait begins!

Immediately I had to make a decision. To stay in line or go back home. To stay in line or return home to start the days activities with homeschooling. To stay in line or cancel my own lecture for doctoral students for the day. All these thoughts were running through my head because the lines were not moving. Then I thought about the pandemic, truth versus lies, health care, science versus fiction, morality, truth versus lies again, climate, change versus denial, economy, crisis versus long-term crisis, the list goes on and on. The issues are endless and the only thing that matter was to stay in line. So I did.

A long line to vote.

I canceled my son’s morning homeschooling sessions. I made contingency plans for canceling my own classes. I prepared to hunker down and wait in line until I voted. This is in a red state, a state that should already belong to the incumbent, still voting was cumbersome and by this time it was only 7am. So I started to document my experience. The lines were still growing. But we waited. Some people drove up, drove away. But we waited. We complained, we loathed the difficulties inherent with the system. And still waited. Some asked how long, and we heard 1 hour, 30 minutes, others said 2 hours. Still we waited. We waited, because our lives depended on this vote. We waited because we need to get to the bottom of this pandemic. We waited to exercise our right to vote.

Almost at the door!

We voted because as a global health researcher, as a public health researcher, the truth matters, public health matters and science, not fiction matters. We waited because our singular vote matters on this day, for myself, for my family, for my state, for this country. We waited despite all the unnecessary hurdles, despite only 2 voting machines in our location. We voted so that we could participate in this thing we call democracy. Keep waiting in line even if it takes 2 hours as I did today or longer. Wait. Your vote matters.

At the time of this writing and given the urgency of the situation we all find ourselves in today, a fierce courage is brimming. More than 62 million people have made their voices heard in early voting. For them, this isn’t the time for despair, or self-pity, no need for silence or fear, as suggested by Toni Morrison (here). There will always be elements to curtail our voices. Even if victory was theirs yesterday, over the long haul, they lose, because of this fierce courage to vote. The burning issue of our time, one that should consume everyone every single day on the eve of the greatest election of all times is how to keep your fierce courage, your disruptive singular courage to vote. In the wake of all the political discourse and many, many negative news surrounding the election, I watched on TV yesterday as people joyfully marched to the polls. It’s a movement aptly called ‘Joy to the Polls’ (see here and here) one that reflects the resilience of ‘we the people.’ The dancing crowd waiting in lines for over hours is democracy in action, a fierce courage in action.

Vote they often say, as if your live depends on it. It does. Vote because elections have consequences. It does. Vote because your vote matters. It does. Vote so you can bear witness to this thing called democracy. You can. Vote so you can change the stakes that have never been higher. You can. Vote so you stop the stifling of our voices. You can. Vote so you can make ‘We the People,’ work. You can. Vote because all we have, when all seems helpless, when all seems hopeless, when disruptive forces try to suppress our voices, is our fierce courage to exercise our power. Vote!

The power to effect the change we all want starts with your ability to exercise your singular vote. Your vote can change the deliberate destruction of the fight for equality. Your vote can change the deliberate destruction of our climate. Your vote can change the deliberate destruction of science. Your vote can change the deliberate destruction of morality, right versus wrong. Your vote can change leadership so it reflects we the people. This singular power that you alone possess can expand our democracy, make it more inclusive, more reasoned, more sustainable to fight for liberty, fight for justice, fight for equality, fight for the voiceless. The power is in you all along. For this election, your power, your vote is as crucial now more than ever. There is no time indeed for despair, or self-pity, no need for silence or even fear, instead take that fierce courage you possess to the ballot box and vote. This is what I intend to keep, my passionate courage and power to vote.