I couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to be a Rappler intern than during midterm elections
There were little fairies with clip-on wings striding by with tykes spouting horns on their hair underneath a sign of Godiva chocolates. It is Halloween in New Jersey when kids trick or treat their way to bags of chocolates and candies. It is taking place mere hours before the US chooses its next president.
Hovering parents shepherded the kids through Menlo Park Mall in the town of Edison, named after the inventor who gave us movies and electric lights. When Hurricane Sandy ripped through New Jersey last week, the tumbling electric wires, falling trees and swirling winds trumped Halloween.
For the second year in a row, the festivities for little ghosts and goblins were called off. Last year, it was a snowstorm. This time around, a wicked tempest called Sandy ruined trick or treat.
NJ Governor Chris Christie decreed a solution. He issued an executive order that declared November 5 as the day the state would celebrate Halloween.
“If they show up at my place, I’m going to give the rocks and tell them to throw it somewhere,” one of my English students joked during class at a junior college in Edison.
I couldn’t really blame him. More than a week after the storm, he still has no power and no idea when he will be able to take a hot shower. It was bitterly cold on November 5 and there is nothing more welcome -- when you are freezing your buns off -- than a steaming bath.
Another student asked if it was some kind of joke that Halloween is being held in New Jersey the night before the election.
I asked my students, "Who are going to vote tomorrow?" A handful raised their arms. One said he is not so sure why he should vote at all.
“I am not sure if my vote is going to make much of a difference,” he said.
The only way I can answer that, I said, is repeat what the immigration officer said at the naturalization ceremony. “If you don’t vote, shut up,” the officer barked. “You got no right to complain if you don’t vote.”
As they would say around here, if you don’t vote, STFU.
The vote is the only time you can tell officials to get lost by throwing them out of office and embracing a governance philosophy that you feel is good for the country.
God knows elections are not perfect. I don’t like where billions have been spent on this election and the way lying has become part of the political life of the country. But I told my students that despite all the flaws of a democracy, other systems are so much worse.
I guess it just gets magnified so much more because it is the United States.
Who're you voting for?
The students asked me who I would vote for.
“I am voting for President Obama because I believe he is the better man. I am voting for him because I really see him as the more decent guy than (Mitt) Romney.”
I have 2-3 veterans in my English class. If they are old enough to die for this country, then they should have a say in who runs it.
The seriousness of the discussion then gave way to battle stories of how they survived Sandy. One teacher compared sitting in her dark room with the radio to something like prison.
When the lights finally came on, it took a while for the TV and Internet to come back. So you’re sitting in a room staring at a blank wide screen television and entertaining dark thoughts about jumping out the window. At that point, I start nodding off to sleep.
“I had to take a bath using cold water,” one of my immigrant students said. “It was freezing. Some members of my family had to move in because their house got flooded. There were only 2 bathrooms for so many people.”
She still has no power in her place.
I looked at the watch on a Monday night. It will soon be 10 pm. The sitcoms are chirping in the background. All the preening and the ads and the solicitation letters are done. The elections are almost here. - Rappler.com