Okay -so as many of you know- a couple of months ago, I left my comfortable life in Chicago to volunteer as an English teacher in the Republic of Georgia for a year. Well, today officially marks two weeks that I’ve been home, on American soil. I decided to cut my time in Georgia short and return back to Illinois. I’ve intended to post a blog entry detailing the specific reasons that lead to my arriving at such a decision, but frankly there are so many other important things happening in America right now that I’m going to be brief about Georgia related things.
I’ll start by saying that there are few people of color in Georgia, and as such there is an inherent curiosity about individuals with darker skin tones. I knew prior to departing the United States that I’d encounter frequent stares and that people might actually go as far as wanting to touch me. In fact, one nice summer afternoon, my Georgian host family decided to prepare a lovely meal to eat outside and enjoy the weather. As we set the table and waited for our invited guests, my host dad asked if he could touch my hair. Now, self-admittedly, I have issues with personal space; I don’t like it violated. But, those of you who know me, know that a sister will switch up a hairstyle in a heartbeat and will go from straight to curly over the course of a day. As I’ve been asked a number of times in America “how do you get your hair like that,” I couldn’t be too upset with a Georgian man for being curious about a texture of hair with which he’s wholly unfamiliar. I sucked up my discomfort and obliged him…in the summer sun, with lots of people around.Now let’s just get down to it. On an unfortunate night, weeks later, I sat at the dinner table alone and sick while my host dad sat closely behind me on the sofa; his wife was in another room washing dishes. He began to speak to me in Georgian and I, of course, was unable to make out what exactly he was saying. The only word I recognized was pretty. Because of his gestures, I was able to finally gather that he was asking to touch my hair again. I thought to myself, “we’ve been through this already.” But as I was sick and hadn’t eaten all day, I didn’t have the energy to try to figure out how to convey this; I obliged again. He began to play in my hair, he went from playing in my hair to rubbing my face and he went from rubbing my face to rubbing my breasts.
Now, most of you are thinking “whoa! did you snap, did you cuss him out” and my answer is no. I completely froze; it was hard to imagine that it was actually happening. I mustered up the strength that I had to say no in Georgian. Shortly after, he repeated the process. He began to tangle his fingers in my hair, he then began to rub my face with his rough hand, and he went from rubbing my face to rubbing my breasts to the point that the first few buttons of my sweater had come undone. I pulled away and repeated no. He then started to run his fingers through his hair and began to ask me if I wanted to touch his. I told him I did not. To make a long story short, this incident led to the conclusion that it would be the best decision for me to remove myself from this situation as I’ve never known a man who made a first move who did not also make a second. Ultimately, I hopped on a plane and brought my tail (and my breasts) back home.My sister always told me “you chew the meat and throw out the bones.” I am appreciative of the time I spent in Georgia; I didn’t walk away on a negative note. I met some wonderful people. I had experiences that I’ll remember for a lifetime. And most importantly, God did some amazing things in my heart in such a short amount of time. I returned from Georgia a better version of myself than the one that departed, and for that I am eternally grateful. And speaking of being grateful, I have never, in my life, been so grateful to be an American citizen. I have a deeper appreciation of the privileges that are afforded to me by merit of my simply being born in this great nation.Yesterday, all across the nation, people cast their ballots in the midterm elections. Since I’ve been back home, everything has seemed a bit more tolerable. There have been very few causes of dissatisfaction because I’ve seen how drastically different things could be. But yesterday, yesterday I was deeply saddened for the first time since I’ve returned. Many people failed to go out to the polls and partake in the civic responsibility of voting. Many of those people are already marginalized and sorely underrepresented in Washington, yet failed to take action that could actually improve their lot in life. I heard many people proudly proclaim that they were not intending to vote as if it were something worthy of boasting. Democrats lost House majority yesterday and maintained the Senate.
I’m not a partisan voter. I vote for candidates that I believe can do the job they seek, and candidates who are actually capable of being elected. There were certainly candidates on this year’s ballot who I had legitimate issues with and couldn’t support on every angle. However, I have a President that I believe in and deem capable of effecting the kind of change that lead millions of people to cast their vote for him. He cannot do it alone; he needs people who are willing to partner and ally with him in order to accomplish such a feat. It saddens me that the droves of people who flooded the polls in order to ensure his election, and people who still claim to support him, failed to show up and vote for individuals who are committed to helping him pass legislation to bring about that change. It also grieves me to think that there are people who are staunchly against the Republican agenda but dissatisfied with current Democratic activity that thought it a better use of their vote to cast it for independent and green party members.
While it is your right to vote for those people you believe in, it is also your responsibility to acknowledge that if you do not support the Republican agenda (and it would be fine if you did) that in a race as close and critical as this one, such a vote is an advantage to the Republican party as it ensures that the votes that could actually tip the scales in favor of the Democrats go to a candidate who surely will not garner enough support to touch election with a 10’ pole. In many ways, voting in such a way, is really similar to casting a Republican vote. If you’re fine with that, I am as well. I am not a partisan voter. But if you would not vote Republican, you probably should think more carefully about voting independently.
After living in a place where the rules of the game are totally different, I am disgusted by such a display of apathy yesterday. I am moved to the point of tears when I think of the disparities in quality of life that exist in this nation and to think that there is a process in place that allows people to have a say that people refuse to participate in is unheard of. And to get uncomfortably specific here, it has been a mere 45 years that African Americans have actually had the privilege of voting. To drive the point home more, this is such a short time ago that there are people alive today who were also alive when it was illegal for blacks to vote. So I say that if you are African American and failed to show up at the polls yesterday, shame on you. The blood of the predecessors who fought for this right is indeed upon your hands and you should be shame and not proud to proclaim that you did not vote.
Now some of you will think this next statement is ungodly, but it’s like something that Jesus said once. If you think that it is okay to go about this life civically unengaged but you complain and expect things to get better, I say that it is better for you to jump in the lake with a large stone tied around your neck. *Kanye Shrug* Harsh: yes. True: YES. In my Lauryn voice “wake up you’ve been sleeping, take up your bed and walk, stop blaming other people, oh it’s nobody else’s fault.” People who know better should also do better.