Voting makes me sappy. Unabashedly so. Dripping with
thankfulness and pride.
Waiting in a line for early voting that stretched around the
Indianapolis City-County Building in chilly winds, I was swamped
with gratitude. What a privilege we have - we can cast our votes
with the confidence that they will be counted fairly and that the
electoral process will proceed without violence and corruption.
In 2008, I surveyed line after line of white tents, housing
thousands of displaced families in the aftermath of controversial
presidential elections in Kenya that led to violence along ethnic
and political lines. Thousands were dead or forced from their
homes, fearing for their own safety. I saw endless lines of
patients in a tent clinic in that camp, offering what few medicines
we had and what care we could patch together. I did a study showing
how the violence after the election disrupted care for thousands of
children with HIV.
The camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Eldoret,
The little clinic AMPATH set up in the IDP camp - where I
saw long lines of patients.
I will never forget the dehydrated baby who stopped breathing in
my arms in the tent clinic in the camp. Diarrhea and disease spread
quickly in the conditions in which refugees and displaced persons
find themselves. I gave the baby rescue breaths all the way to the
hospital - an endlessly long trip that day. Kenya will hold
presidential elections again in March of 2013, and we are already
making contingency plans for what conflict might unfold.
I am grateful that, no matter what happens in our elections on
Tuesday, we can assume that it will be safe for families to remain
in their homes, that children will not face deprivation and
disease. I am grateful for every way in which our electoral process
is peaceful and fair and just.
Seeing two elderly African-American ladies being ushered
respectfully through the lines today in Indianapolis, I had tears
in my eyes. Hearing a first-time voter ring the bell as he
submitted a ballot made my heart warm.
I am so grateful for all of those who stood up, who
demonstrated, who fought, who died - so that people of color could
vote, so that women could vote, so that we can live in a peaceful
and safe country where we have this beautiful privilege. Thank you,
all of you on whose shoulders we stand in this voting line.