A very important, striking and for me, inspiring movie came out this year that has me looking at elections a lot more closely than I have ever done before. No, it’s not that movie, it was an HBO Original released on the network in February of this year, a movie called Iron Jawed Angels.
The only thing I knew about the suffragist movement was the mention of Susan B. Anthony around the time of Lincoln and then again when the 19th Amendment was added to the Consitution in 1920. But there was so much more to it than that. I was amazed that these women had to go as far as they did so that all women can vote. I was grateful that they went that far so that myself, my mother, grandmother, sister, sisters-in-law and nieces can vote.
I know many people have the glass is half full/empty argument when it comes to voting, whether it is a right, privilege or even an obligation. I see it as all three. It is a privilege for me for one of the simplest reasons, because so many women elsewhere in the world are unable to voice their opinion in their country’s government. It is a right under the Constitution that those women fought to give us, they marched, pounded the pavement, met with legislators, silently & peacefully protested, went to jail, went on hunger strikes so they and all women could vote. It is an obligation because I feel that if you don’t vote and make yourself heard by the government, whom are elected by the people’s vote, then I feel you have no basis for complaining about what the government does.
I cry everytime I watch this movie. I get infuriated everytime I watch this movie. I want to stand up and scream at the injustices committed against those women for wanting the same thing men already had, and how some members of Congress and the people on the street treated those women for just wanting to participate in the very thing the United States was fighting for overseas in World War I.
One quote in the movie kind of said it all for me, when Alice Paul was taken to the psych ward at the workhouse where she was imprisioned and the pyschaitrist asks her why she wants to vote, for her to explain herself and Ms. Paul replies: “What needs to be explained? It should be very clear. Look into your heart, I swear to you mine’s no different. You want a place in the trades and professions where you can earn your bread, so do I. You want a means of self expression and some satisfyingpersonal ambitions, so do I. You want a voice in the government under which you live, so do I. What is there to explain?” When the psychaitrist went back and reported to President Wilson he likened it to Patrick Henry when he exclaimed “Give me liberty,or give me death!” He went even further to say “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”
I know most of my family has different political views than I do, which is a given in pretty much any family. Both my parents are democrats, my sister and her husband are republicans as are I know for sure two of my brothers. I also know most of them don’t always vote along party lines. I even said this during a meeting I attended, that I don’t care how people vote, well I do, but that’s another story for another time, but I just want them to vote. It’s more than being a right, privilege, or obligation, it’s a precious gift that should not be tossed aside or squandered just because we are busy on Election Day, which is really no excuse in Louisiana, which has the longest hours in all the US for the polls staying open, 14 total, from 6am to 8pm.
I especially want this message to go out to all my nieces and my nephew, who is voting in his first Presidential Election, only because he’s getting extra credit in a class, but hey whatever gets them to the polls right? Just remember that even some men had to struggle a bit to get to vote. The hierarchy didn’t end until the Civil Rights Movement, when before there was still voter disenfranchisment going on here. I’m sure I mentioned this in my rundown of my trip to the Democratic National Convention, but while we were there, Frank LeMere, Chairman of the Native American Caucas siad he was asked by some other Native Americans why he voted, why he did that white man thing, and Mr. LeMere replied that he voted because his brothers & sisters fought and bled for him to have the ability to vote.
I can only hope that we all, at least those of you who actually read this and are old enough, will remember to go out on November 2nd.