Monday, March 7, 2016

American As Apple Pie

As a child, I remember going with my parents to vote in the tiny town of Byers, just 3 1/2 miles away from our farm home. I'm not sure I realized the significance as they disappeared behind the red, white and blue canvas curtain of the voting booth with ballot in hand. But when I reached age 18, I, too, wanted to make my vote count.

However, in all those years since, I've never been part of a caucus. Kansas' caucus have traditionally been later in the process. Each party's nominee was pretty much a foregone conclusion, so it didn't seem like it made any difference anyway.

However, this year was different. With the tally for delegates still in flux, it seemed more relevant this year. But, as I saw the line at the Reno County Republican caucus stretch for a hundred yards down the sidewalk outside the Atrium Hotel, I again wished that our house was on the other side of the county line.

According to Facebook, my friends and neighbors in Stafford County were in and out of their caucus in a matter of minutes. But in Hutchinson, cars were circling the hotel lot, trying to find a place to park. We had errands to run, so we decided to do them and come back.
The next time, the line was only a few dozen feet from the front doors. But it was deceptive. Inside, the line snaked and curved through the hotel lobby, doubling back. We were many and varied. Young parents carried babies, pushed empty strollers and tried to entertain squirming toddlers. Teens accompanying their parents on a Saturday morning, shuffled their feet as the line slowly moved, while their fingers raced and dashed over their phones.

Some senior citizens leaned against the lobby chairs and sofas for a brief respite before moving on to the next rest point. Some wore their political leanings on their sleeves with campaign T-shirts, but a lot more promoted their favorite college instead. After all, it was game day for K-State, KU and Wichita State.
It took about 45 minutes to reach the table where we handed over our driver's licenses and our voter registration records were checked. We were handed a sticker and went into a hotel ballroom, where we traded the sticker for a ballot. Once we got there, it took only a few seconds to put a pencil mark by a candidate's name and drop it in the voting box.

Brent says it only took 5 minutes in Riley County. Some caucus goers in Wichita waited 3 hours, so 45 minutes didn't seem so bad after I heard that.
Was it a wise use of my time? I doubt it. But at least I was part of the process. And, in a democracy, that should be celebrated.

Our trip to the caucus came as we were driving home the morning after seeing our niece, Madison, in the opera, The Consul, at K-State.
Photo from K-State Theatre
Even though we can get disillusioned by our political system in America, The Consul was a reminder of what living in a police state would be like. The opera is set in a large European city, probably in the 1930s or '40s. A freedom fighter comes home with a bullet in his leg, courtesy of the country's corrupt Secret Police. For his family's survival, he flees to a neighboring democratic country, leaving behind his wife, Magda (Madi's character), his mother and an ill baby boy.
Photo by K-State Theatre
Magda goes to the consulate to try and get exit visas for the rest of the family to join her husband and escape persecution. But the whole process is an exercise in futility and bureaucratic red tape. The show doesn't have a "feel good" happy ending.

Perhaps that glimpse of oppression gave me a little more appreciation for the political process as I stood in line on a beautiful spring morning in Hutchinson, Kansas. Flawed as it is, I can still be part of our political process.


  1. What a timely reminder of our good fortune to have democracy. There really is a need for everyone to cast their vote.
    I your niece sitting at the table in the last pic?

    1. Yes. She is the female in both of the photos. She's a junior in vocal performance at K-State.

  2. The 2016 Presidential campaign is History in the making. It makes a lot of food for thought and discussion.

    Hope you enjoyed the college Opera and watching your niece. Sounds like fun!

    1. She and the other cast mates did a wonderful job!

  3. Voting is compulsory here for everyone over the age of 18, and I do really like that. We are very much part of an democratic system. I am finding it quite fascinating seeing what it going on in your Presidential campaign. We have a very different system.

    1. I am appalled by the presidential race this year. It reflects badly on the U.S., in my opinion.