I wrote this on the eve of Election Day, 2004 (Bush-Kerry), well before I became a US citizen:
Hope all of you are all set for tomorrow. Well, I am. Even though I am not an American citizen – heck, I am not even a Green Card holder yet – I have been totally involved, absorbed, wrapped up in this election, much more that I had ever expected to be. I have been glued to the television, I have ‘microscoped’ every op-ed in the newspapers, read mighty books, listened intently to every speech, hung on to each candidates every word, even if it was repeated the one millionth time. I have lived this election, savored every moment of it, roller-coasted through its ups and downs, fumed at its pollsters, raged at its pundits and memorized its one-liners. In a way, I am sad that it will all end in a few days, like a game which your team might win but you never want to end, because you have loved the playing of it so much.
But now finally, the day is almost upon us. Tomorrow, a nation will stand up to be counted, quite literally and proudly make its statement to the world. I hope I don’t do something silly tomorrow – like rushing out to vote. Don’t be surprised if you find me forlornly loitering around in your precinct, hoping to catch some understanding polling officer’s eye, or imploring him to allow me to cast a dummy vote. That’s how badly I want to be involved. Don’t count my vote, I want to tell them, don’t even check it, just let me vote, just let me feel that I have contributed, just let me feel that I have done my job. That would have been a fitting and fulfilling end to what started as an objective and academic interest, but has gradually become so very personal and involved and all too suddenly, my very own.
Alas, that cannot be. But at least I will be able to tell people that I have stood on the shores of a great ocean when it was in tide and even if I was not able to immerse myself in it waves, my heart has ebbed and flowed with its swirling waters, its foam has touched my feet and its spray has stung my face. I have dipped but a finger in it but such has been its power that I might have drunk from it and in doing so, have found myself all the richer and better for it…..
That was 2004. I became a US citizen in 2010 and voted for the first time in the 2012 elections (Obama-Romney). It was a highly charged and emotional day for me and Bhavana. We dressed in our Sunday best, went to the polling booth, stood tall and reverent in the line as if to receive communion, proud Americans voting in the next President of the United States of America. We were part of a sacred process, and our participation was important, it would be noted and counted. We were making a contribution, however humble, to the life of the greatest nation in the world. Our vote, those papers, bearing our signature would forever be etched in the annals of the nation’s history. Maybe someday, somewhere, someone, for some reason would be going down a list of the voters in the 2012 election and his fingers would run over our two names, unknown and unheard of, but we would there. We knew our vote was just one among a 100 odd million votes, but those were the feelings the day evoked.
Then we went through 2016, one of the worst election campaigns, and we thought we had seen it all. In a way, I was glad Hillary did not win. They would not have allowed her to govern. She would have spent all four years just dodging impeachment with little else to show for it.
And this is 2020 and it makes 2016 pale in comparison. In past elections, however vitriolic the campaigns were, people and politicians came together in acceptance and respect once the results were in and announced. They would gather at least once, in celebration and pride, to usher in the new Presidency. There was the dignity of a trusted process well done and brought to fruition overcoming mountainous odds. Maybe the rest of the years were full of partisan bickering and bitterness, but there were lines of decency and morality in the sand that nobody crossed. The ill wind of the Trump Presidency has blown all those sand dunes away. The lines are gone now. He has destroyed people and institutions, the reputations of friend and foe alike, the prestige and stature of America in the eyes of the world. He has presided over a raging illness and the death of his countrymen without a pang of conscience. The sitting President has cast a long, dark shadow on the same process that we considered holy and sacrosanct – and fair enough to have even elected a man like him to the Presidency. Today, businesses will down shutters and board up store fronts in fear. Armed militia will stand guard near polling stations on Election Day and mobs will be ready to violently protest an unfavorable verdict thereafter.
It is a shame, a shame that a shameless man has visited upon the highest office in the land and the world.
He has questioned the honesty of the process, he has questioned the probity and hard work of thousands and thousands of Americans, many of them volunteers, who strive fiercely to preserve and protect its integrity. Today, he will feel the might and sanctity of the process. That same process that elevated him in 2016 will cast him out in 2020. America will see a better tomorrow.