Tuesday, September 16, 2008

'Tis the season: a political post

I heard about a helpful-sounding website called factcheck.org, a non-partisan site that researches the veracity of the information we see, hear and read about political candidates. I checked it out briefly this morning; very interesting! Probably not perfect, as nothing on this earth or initiated by humans is, but I found it helpful nonetheless. I plan to spend more time there, so I can give a more informed response when someone throws a sound bite at me.

On a related note, a friend sent me an email titled "Why Women Should Vote." She was preaching to the choir when she sent it to me, but it was still a good history lesson for me and may be for you, too. The rest of this post is what was in that email.

Why Women Should Vote
This is the story of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.' They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on November 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food - all of it colorless slop - was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because - why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie Iron Jawed Angels. It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder. All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was - with herself. "One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie," she said. "What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn." The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her "all over again."

HBO released the movie on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order. It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men: "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote. History is being made.

Read more from the Library of Congress here.

That's it for now from . . .

6 comments:

A :-) said...

I got this email from a friend - it had photos of all the ladies mentioned. It always amazes me when someone brags that they never vote . . .

country girl said...

I got the e-mail with photos. I want to see the DVD. My feeling is that if you don't vote you don't get to complain about the outcome. I always ask people if they voted; I'm amazed at how many don't. The women who fought for our right would be very disappointed.
That fact checking site is great and so is snopes.com The internet is great but sometimes inaccurate information gets passed around and around until people believe it.

Wrensong Farm said...

Thanks for that factcheck site. I NEED something like that...I find it so frustrating the lies and distortions that are out there.

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

Dito Country Girl, thats exactly what I tell a friend of mine that has never registered to vote, she doesnt talk politics with me any more... About that web site, on the front page I counted twelve posts, all but two of those were posted in support of some wrong done to Obama. Hoping the rest of the posts even out a bit?

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I noticed the disparity, Becky. I wonder if that is because there is more untruth being spread about Obama, but I don't know. I certainly have gotten far more "read this scary thing about Obama" emails from people than I have about McCain and Pallin; there does seem to be more fear-mongering going on in that direction.

TigereyeSal said...

Thanks for the reminder, Michelle. Our election is coming up in a month, and I am frustrated enough with HAVING to vote, in the 3rd federal election in 5 years, that I am tempted Not to vote. Clearly that is not my "loudest" choice, as it were.