My emotions ran the gamut on Nov. 6, but they had nothing to do with what propositions won or who lost. Feelings of pride, sorrow, appreciation and intense gratitude filled my heart that sunny autumn day, one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
I felt great pride as I briskly walked from the car to my designated polling site to fulfill an important civic responsibility - perhaps I'd internalized what the political pundits say about every vote counting. Here I was, one person among millions of voters, yet my opinions mattered as much as anyone else's.
I arrived at the door without having to wait in line, which I didn't appreciate until I watched the news hours later and heard of folks young and old willing to wait patiently in long lines hours at a time for the privilege of casting their votes.
Within maybe 30 seconds, one of the brightly lit voting booths opened up and I filled in those places on the ballot referring to things about which I had an opinion. A few of the voting volunteers - the unsung heroes of the election - were a little concerned that I had not bubbled in all areas, fearing that my few choices might not be counted. They needn't have worried. The machine took my ballot with nary a clink or a clank, and I was done.
Done, that is, except for one little ceremony - the affixing of the "I voted" sticker to my sweater. I wore it the rest of the afternoon, to tell the world that I cared enough about our country to make some decisions that I hoped would affect it for the better.
Leaving the polling site with a spring in my step, I did a little shopping to decompress and then headed off to attend the meeting of a local social group. It was there that one of the members introduced me to his friend Marie, who is spending a few weeks in Tucson visiting family.
Marie is from a country that continues to engage in civil unrest. She is in the desperate situation of being caught in the crossfire of opposing factions. As she later told me, her ancestors in that country go back generations. Her hometown is an old one, with monuments built centuries ago. Many of the monuments have been destroyed.
She described the capital as a once-beautiful city - now partially in ruins.
"It makes you want to cry," she told me. "My visa extends until Christmas, but if at that time I feel there is a serious risk to my life in returning home, I will apply for an extension."
You can read in the paper or online about the physical and psychological sufferings of millions in so many war-torn parts of the world, but to hear in person the story of just one of those people affected me more than any statistics ever could.
Marie is lucky to be alive and well, but remains in limbo, not knowing when she will see the rest of her family again. I practically cried myself, imagining how I might feel if I could not return to Tucson, to my home and to those I hold dear.
I left that meeting with Marie's words ringing in my ears. I was extremely sad for her, yet at the same time so grateful to have been born in a country where opposing political parties work through their differences with discussion, debate, arguments, even heated and bitter verbal interchanges, but rarely violence.
As President Obama said during his victory speech, "Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated." But it's the best we humans have devised to be able to work through issues without killing one another in the process.
After the first 2012 presidential debate, TV personality Larry King asked news commentator Ben Stein who he thought had won. Stein immediately replied, "America won."
As I watched footage of the peaceful election process taking place across our country, I could only echo Stein's words: America won.
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