This isn’t the most lyrical poem I’ve ever written, that’s for sure, but as the debate about Voter ID rages on (it’s on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in MN this year), I wanted to get at what I think the real problem is: racism. Communities of color came out for Barack Obama in record numbers in 2008, and I think that there are some who would cynically move to do whatever they can to prevent a repeat of this in 2012, making those same communities pawns, once again, in a game they didn’t consent to playing. Like a lot of racism, this is of the unexamined variety — voter ID advocates would never make the connection between redlining and the proposed amendment (after all, it isn’t Obama’s skin color they don’t like, just his politics, and I have to say that I believe their sincerity in this) yet there it is, an attempt to further disenfranchise groups of people based on skin color and a socioeconomic status that is directly linked to policies of the past (e.g. redlining). This kind of historical amnesia is very dangerous for our country.
We’re standing on maps left behind by our grandfathers,
covered in red lines and promises of financial solvency.
We’re the architects of a grand plan all our own.
We’ll make a man out of straw and call him voter fraud.
Ask him for identification – what’s the harm in that?
If he doesn’t have it, we deny the vote,
light him up as an example to others.
Use the maps to get it going –
we don’t need them anymore.
Behold, arms outstretched in supplication,
a burning beacon in the night,
a cross to light the way.
These are times of values.
Of course, that’s far too scathing a critique.
After all, we were very careful not to identify
those most likely not to have identification.
We never said anything
or skin color,
or people groups voting in record numbers,
Electing the country’s first black president,
by a landslide.
That’s not what this is about.
We just want to make sure we know who you are.
What’s the harm in that?