Kage Baker was an avid voter. She (and I) were in the first crop of 18+ people to get the vote, and she never missed an election after that. Her armoir had I Voted stickers all over it. A few fell off over the years; they got replaced at the next election. She was damned proud of voting.
Kage was an historian at heart, and she knew how seldom people actually get to have a hand in their own governance. Our system of representative democracy – while admittedly often a cluster-f**k of unimaginable proportions – is nonetheless the best system currently going. Winston Churchill told us so.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth … Every little girl should know their names, and all the other ladies who were reviled, jailed and tortured for the right to vote. Kage said there ought to be a jump-rope rhyme for it. Everybody remembers jump-rope rhymes.
Two years ago, I had a heart attack the day before the 2008 Presidential elections. Once I got to the ER, it became obvious they weren’t going to let me go -I was distraught. I had to vote! It was the most important election of my life, and I was not going to miss it. However, I was unable to talk the doctors into a day pass from the ICU, for some reason. (Maybe because they were still hysterical over my driving myself into the ER in the first place.) But they were most unreasonable.
Kage was my saviour. She got hold of the hospital ombudsman, she got hold of an absentee ballot, she got the appropriate waiver to allow her to hand-deliver my ballot to our polling place. She came to my bedside, I voted and signed and sealed, and off she went. By foot and bus – Kage could not drive – in a rain storm, in our tiny Pacific Coast town where the buses run only once a hour and stopped nowhere near the polling place …
But she did it. She marched through the storm and the growing darkness, chanting “Liz – Cady – Stan-ton, So-jour-ner-Truth!” to keep the cadence. (I know she did because she was chanting it when she left my room in triumph that afternoon.) She didn’t get home until long after dark, and went upstairs to our dark apartment all alone, to a dinner of rum and toast with a parrot for her sole companion.
She called me on the phone to announce her victory, and cried on the phone over my being so sick and far away. I cried too. We swore we would always take care of one another, as we had for years, until we were two madly eccentric old ladies racing one another to the polling booth in our wheelchairs …
Kage Baker died because she was poor and uninsured and self-employed, and no one would hurry on her care. Her cancer was diagnosed in March of 2009 – therapy did not begin for another 6 months, and surgery was stalled for 8 months. So when it finally came, the cancer had metastasized to her brain, her lungs, her gut … they cured the endometrial cancer, it was the stuff that grew while state and federal aid wasted time that killed her.
I have a very personal stake in health care reform. But we all have a very personal stake in reining in corrupt bureaucracies, rapacious banks, elected officials who sit on their asses and delay, delay, delay. Kage Baker is not the only person whose death can be laid directly at the door of the greedy, dishonest and powerful.
Go vote. Whatever your principles are, make sure your voice is heard. It really is a matter of life and death.