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Ode to My Mother: From her Voting Activist Daughter

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Ode to My Mother: From her Voting Activist Daughter

While everyone else in the world is off in cozy dreamland, I have spent many a sleepless night staring at my ceiling and mulling over the $64,000 question with its ever-elusive answer. How do I wake up the public to the wholesale theft of our vote? It was in this quest that I latched onto the documentary "Invisible Ballots" when I first saw it a year ago. While certainly not perfect, (and now dated, besides) it has been a very good tool for raising public awareness. Almost every day, I get another inquiry about it. In fact, over 1,900 copies have been distributed since the lending library project was launched last September, to people in 37 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and five foreign countries.

Now I would like to tell you about my mother. Bear with me - it's not the segue it might seem. Let me paint you a picture. My mother is a former star athlete, a citywide field hockey champion. Her friends had to ask her to refrain from playing so that she wouldn't upstage them at their weddings when she walked down the aisle on crutches, yet again. After marriage, she continued with tennis and golf, and when I was small she would get down on the kitchen floor with me for a mean game of jacks. She was pretty cool, although you would have had to torture me for weeks to get me to admit it at the time. She was very involved in her community, volunteering in various capacities over the years, some of which involved major commitments of time and energy.

From the get-go, she has been my biggest fan. She gave me the tools to be a strong, independent person. For example, although I hated it at the time, whenever I would ask her how to spell a word, her standard response was "Look it up." In this simple way, she forced me out of a more passive mode and into taking responsibility for myself. It's a lesson that has served me well. Ask my kids. I used the same "Look it up" routine on them and they are turning out just fine, despite the inevitable eye rolling. My mom made me love reading, still one of my favorite activities. We spent many a comfortable hour together on the sofa reading. Not talking, but sharing quality time nevertheless. An advocate of hard work, she eschewed easy solutions or quick fixes. She's always lived by the credo that you get out of something in proportion to what you put in.

She's applauded my victories and my strengths and offered consoling words when things didn't come out exactly as planned. She has always thought of me as a terrific mother, giving me the confidence to follow my instincts and weather the constant challenges. A major stroke a few years back has definitely slowed her down, yet she has never lost her interest in the world around her, and in the lives of those closest to her. In my recent venture into activism, she's been there every step along the way to marvel and to encourage. It's almost embarrassing how much her support has meant to me. One's mother is more than simply another close relative. Her words have the unique power to elevate (or to sting). Her seal of approval is my most cherished reward.

I have a very strong image of her sitting in the den in her favorite chair, waiting for the phone to ring and excited to hear the latest news of my adventures in activism. I would read her some of the letters I endlessly sent out and the interesting replies I got in return. When I've turned my hand to writing articles, she's been the first to hear them. My only complaint is that she rarely finds anything wrong with what I write. But, hey, there are editors for that. How many places can you go for infinitely sweet, unconditional love?

When Rob Kall suggested that I raise the money to purchase a huge number of DVDs to take to the recent Take Back America Conference in Washington DC, I was stymied by this daunting task. I had just over two weeks to simultaneously raise thousands of dollars and arrange all the details involved in producing, designing, composing, packaging, and arranging for the merchandise to get to three different locations. Although I received an impressive outpouring of financial support, there was a point when I had to decide whether to order 2,000 or 3,000 copies, without having yet collected the funds for either of those quantities. It was a scary moment for me, and I had nothing to guide me. No business acumen, no fundraising experience. I was quite sure that I would end up digging deep into my own pocket to cover the deficit. It was, frankly, unnerving.

To my tremendous surprise, I succeeded in quickly raising the entire amount to cover the 3,000 DVDs. They arrived in time for me to give away almost 1,000 at the conference and to send another 200 with a delegate to the National League of Women Voters Convention held the same week in Minneapolis. The vast majority of the money came from people totally unknown to me. They read about my project and simply decided they wanted to be a part of it. I'm extremely grateful for their generosity and faith in me. And, something very strange happened. Once I had raised the money I needed to buy the DVDs, the contributions stopped coming in. Just like that.

As my biggest fan, my mother followed every development in the DC campaign, and even contributed the money for my airfare. She has continued to support my project and its objectives. A week ago, it occurred to me that she had never actually seen the documentary that started me on this path toward activism. Early on, I hadn't a copy to spare as all of my inventory was either circulating, on order, or on its way to the post office. I now have large boxes of the DVDs, and giving a copy to my mom was long overdue. Yesterday afternoon, she called to tell me that she and her friend Bettye had watched the film. She was impressed by the quality of the presentation and very disturbed by its content. She immediately started telling me about all the people in her building she wanted to buttonhole about it. A few minutes later, she called me back with the suggestion of another person for me to contact. I was excited by her enthusiasm, vindicated, and touched.

Here is an 85-year-old lady, hard of hearing, and virtually blind, yet she "got it." Once I figure out how to break through to the man on the street, I'll be all set. I'll have the answer to the $64,000 question. In the meantime, thanks for the vote of confidence, Mom!
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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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