This week I asked the writers in my memoir classes to write a letter to past or future generations about how they’re feeling now, a week before the 2016 presidential election. Sharon Kramer lives near Wrigleyville, and I thought this piece she wrote about voting early last Sunday while Cub fans were gathering for the fifth game of the World Series really knocked it out of the park. Enjoy!
I Saw America Sunday
by Sharon Kramer
That’s Sharon Kramer to my left and three other writers from our downtown class: Audrey Mitchell, Wanda Bridgeforth, and Darlene Schweitzer.
I saw America Sunday. Oh, I’ve seen America before. Videos of policemen shooting young black men. A candidate for President of the United States degrading women, the disabled and Muslims. Anger from citizens not able to replace a lost job. Hatred of our first African American president. Yes, I’ve seen too much of that America. But Sunday in Chicago, for one brief moment, America was working the way my imaginings told me it should.
I decided to vote early at my public Library on Belmont Ave. Just blocks from Wrigley Field, where the Cubs would later win game 5 in the World Series. At Clark and Diversey, about 100 policemen and women were lining up on bicycles, like a chorus line on stage, guns at their sides (I always check that), on their way to the Cubs game at Clark and Addison to keep the peace. Intermingled in this bike parade were everyday men, and women, and children dressed in blue Cubs shirts and Halloween costumes, going to the same place, inadvertently caught in the police bike procession. Nothing happened. Nobody acted self-important. It was just a long display of people and police on bikes on their way to an event. I felt like I was in the audience of Radio City Music Hall and the program was about to begin.
When I got to the voting location, there was a long line. The library was technically closed on Sunday, so I couldn’t take out a book to read. I’d left my cell at home, too. So, I had nothing to do but look at the waiting people. The shoes were mostly sneakers. All sizes and colors and styles coming together to vote. Maybe what we all have in common is sneakers.
The clothes represented young and old — black elastic-waisted pants (like mine), skirts too short coupled with torn stockings and lots of sweatshirts and baseball caps. The hair was gray, black, purple, blonde, brown and pink. The faces Black, Latino, Asian, White.
Not one word of complaint. The long line, curved and orderly. The only loud voice was from one of the voting officials trying to straighten out a line or push us closer together. No one took offense. It was just someone trying to do his job. Everyone was eager to vote. Graceful and beautifully choreographed in curvy lines, I half expected to hear a rendition of “God Bless America.”
On my way home after voting, the Trick-or-Treaters were mixed up with the Cubs fans and they were all mixed up with the police and early voters. Proud parents moving their young princesses and witches from store to store to add goodies to already bulging bags. Another dance. This time in technicolor, with joy, humor and generosity.
A perfect confluence of goodness was happening right before my eyes — voting, Halloween, innocence, pride, passion, and humor, on a lovely fall day. Everyone respected everyone else’s space. It was the way I want to think of my country. Everyone moving in their own direction, to their own song. Yet somehow, still together, respecting one another.
Will I ever see this perfect storm of civility and graciousness again? I hope so.
Sharon Kramer compiles essays by writers from the “Me, Myself and I” class I lead at the Chicago Cultural Center at a blog called Beth’s Class. This “I Saw America Sunday” essay was first published there, along with pieces written by her fellow Wednesday writers. Check them out!