I had coffee with Lila a couple days ago. We sat on her front porch where two big hanging baskets overflowed with fuchsia and petunias. All that rich color made us a little contemplative. Lila said she’d been reading the news before breakfast, as she usually does, and got to thinking about her great aunt.
“In 1917 Great Aunt Noony and two of her friends road the bus all the way to Washington, D.C. On the ride there they hardly saw any soldiers, but on the ride back, well they ended up in a train car filled with young men returning from the front. Noony and her friends shared every bit of the food they’d brought for the trip—sandwiches, red apples, a bag of walnuts—with those young men. She said when they got off the train in Minneapolis, they were about to faint from hunger. Don’t that beat all?”
I admitted that it did.
“They went to picket President Wilson, try to convince him to fight for women’s suffrage. Now you just think about that, 1917, a century and a half of being a nation, and no woman had voted for her president or senator or representative. That doesn’t seem right, does it? So the three of them, all three teachers and single women, went to our nation’s capital to fight for their right to be represented. They paid taxes, didn’t they? You’d think that if you pay taxes, and you’re an adult, why then you should be able to vote.
“And now I’m reading about this amendment to our state constitution. You can’t tell me that there’s enough voter fraud going on out there to make a difference. And I’ll tell you what, getting voters to the booth, that makes a difference. That’s what we want, isn’t it? To get voters to the booth. That’s the idea behind democracy.
“But what this amendment will do is it will keep poor people, students, anybody who’s starting out in life or struggling to get by, anybody who’s got to make an effort to get across town and put up money to get a voter ID, it will keep those citizens, those tax-payers, from voting.
“My Great Aunt Noony, now, she had the right idea. Sometimes you’ve got to stand up for what’s right. Give up your cheese sandwiches for a day and tell it like it is. Stand somewhere where you’ll be noticed—not as an individual, but as one citizen of many.”