Hands that picked cotton can pick our presidents.
Anyone who can't be bothered to vote or who thinks their vote doesn't count should take a trip down to Selma Alabama. For 100 years after the Civil War, black people in the South were still being denied the right to vote. In March of 1965, blood was spilled on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the struggle to secure that right for all Americans.
We visited the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma. It's housed in an unassuming little building on Jefferson Davis Highway at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which crosses the Alabama River and is named after a Confederate general. The museum doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside you'll find powerful exhibits, photos and artifacts telling the story of the Selma civil rights movement. Out of that movement, a handful of courageous community leaders organized a march to Montgomery that led to the national Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The last exhibit at the museum celebrates the historic election of Barack Obama as president. It's the most current exhibit but likely not the final chapter. There is still a struggle. As we saw in 2000 and now again in 2012, a few rich, white and powerful men in America seek to prop up their own special interests on the backs of working people and the poor.
Over the last 50 years, the tactics and technology have changed but the end game is still the same: vote suppression. Instead of intimidation, billy clubs and fire hoses, there's a nationally organized campaign of voter registration database purges, photo ID laws that are nothing more than poll taxes and obstacles to voting, outsourced computerized black box voting, and right-wing propaganda machines fueled by unlimited corporate special interest money, all working in concert to suppress the minority, immigrant, poor and elderly vote.
At the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge across the highway from the Voting Rights Museum is a memorial to the Selma voting rights movement. There's a monument made of large stones with an inscription from the Bible book of Joshua that reads: "When your children shall ask you in time to come saying 'what mean these 12 stones?' then you shall tell them how you made it over."
As the media turns national elections into corporate-sponsored sporting events, let's not forget the struggles of previous generations who believed in the power of democracy and made great personal sacrifices to protect fundamental rights that some of us take for granted. Let's hope we can leave behind for future generations a similar legacy of fighting to preserve those rights. Moreover, let's hope they still care.
In the mean time, vote.
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