Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
Maybe you’ve heard these lines: “Vote the change you want to see in the world!” or “Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” (That’s Susan B. Anthony).
You might roll your eyes when you hear these quotes. Maybe they’ve even started to feel like the new “Live, Love, Laugh.”
Voting is the hot topic in the zeitgeist. It’s like the new HBO show everyone’s talking about: You know it’s supposed to be good, but it hasn’t tickled your intrigue enough to press play.
Maybe there’s not enough societal pressure to do so. I get it, finding the motivation to do anything these days is hard. Like if I’m not posting about it on Instagram, why would I make sourdough bread, for my OWN pleasure, when I could just Postmates? Or, if nobody ever calls me, why keep my phone charged?
OK. That’s dark. Maybe you’re not that depressed. Maybe you still find the will to keep your phone charged or cook for yourself. But not everyone can or has, and depression can make everything else, including voting, seem hopeless or out of the realm of possibilities. I’m describing someone I know very well when I say these things: My mother.
My mother has never voted in her twenty years of living in the United States. We moved here together without papers and stayed in my uncle’s garage for seven years while we applied for our green cards annually. And though we lived under the same physical circumstances, because I was enrolled in school and extracurricular activities, I was given the chance to “advance” in America while my mother got left behind. My English got better, and I made friends and found community. While my mother stayed home, unemployed, alone, and suffering from paranoid-schizophrenia.
It’s no wonder voting feels hopeless and silly to her. Does her point of view matter? Does anybody even care? And then I decided to pointedly ask about it this year: “Are you voting?”
Her answer was shockingly simple: “I don’t know how to.”
What? That’s IT?
The shame hit me hard. All this time I had painted a whole sob story in my head about why my mother doesn’t vote, only to realize that all it took to penetrate her apathy, built over the years, was having someone, who cared for her, bring the subject up.
We immediately got online and I helped her register within seconds. I gently reminded her that though it may seem like a small thing, we’re voting on big things that can impact how long we continue living in dire conditions.
She admitted she misses eating at restaurants. I told her that voting for the right person can ensure we get out of this pandemic quicker. She admitted she was excited to receive the stimulus check of $1,200, only for it to run out quickly, and now she’s back to her monthly disability check of a mere $940. I told her that one party wants to cut SSI and disability funds while the other promises to continue them. These are issues she cares about. These are issues that she can vote on.
With so much out of our control, how we cast our vote on a ballot is one of the few things we can control. End. Scene.
If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with an undecided voter in your life, and please consider contributing to The Loveland Foundation.
Atsuko Okatsuka is a comedian and creator of the hit live game show and weekly podcast, Let’s Go Atsuko! She has written for The Eric Andre Show and Soft Focus with Jena Friedman on Adult Swim and currently her debut comedy album “But I Control Me” is out with Comedy Dynamics.