It’s Your Franchise: Use It!

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.


About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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7 Responses to It’s Your Franchise: Use It!

  1. Marc Bailey says:

    This post is one of the finest expressions of the value of voting I’ve ever read or heard. It should be spread (town-crier like) throughout the land. I’m going to do my part to do just that.

    The world’s a better place for the clarity of the hearts and voices of the Baker Sisters.


  2. Shirley says:

    I’ve sent this entry to all the over 18 yrs old women in my family giving thanks to my Mother for putting me on the voting path when I was old enough to register and in memory of all the women in the past who weren’t allowed to vote.
    Thank you for a very touching and inspiring read today.


  3. I voted for the first time when I turned 21, in the republic of Viet Nam, by absentee ballot in the California Primary. The Man I voted for was shot dead. Likely before my ballot had made it to California. Because of that I have mostly not missed an election since. A couple where there were registration difficulties are about it. I’m used to frequently voting on the loosing side. But voting is a sacred act of citizenship and so you do it. I am reminded of this miracle every time I see an inaguration; knowing full well the things that have been done and said before, that any tanks and soldiers we see are there to share in the occasion, not enforce the will of some sinister end. Dosen’t happen many places.


  4. Tom says:

    “Kage Baker died because she was poor and uninsured and self-employed, and no one would hurry on her care. ”
    We suspected as much.
    It is difficult to express the deep multilayered bitterness I feel over this. It is a mere shadow of yours to be sure, but multiplied by the number of our friends who died for the same irrational reason.
    Too many names to mention here, too many Americans who could have been saved by a little bit of sanity and investment in our own future. Health care for profit – what an obscenity.
    Today I will ask for four ‘I Voted’ stickers: two for myself, since I was born in Chicago (“Vote early, vote often”) and two for Kage. They’ll go on the bathroom medicine cabinet mirror, with their elders.
    Dammitall, Kathleen. Dammit, dammit, dammit!


  5. Mike Young says:

    I have voted every chance I have had. It is one of the most important things you can do.

    I have taken this from Robert A. Heinlein’s character Lazarus Long

    “There may not be anything to vote for but there is always something to vote against.”


  6. Leslie Patterson says:

    I voted. My Husband voted. My 23 yr old son voted. My 15 yr old was in tune to the whole election and will vote when he can. I will always remember my mother helping out on any, and all democratic election campaigns, with my sister and I in tow stuffing envelopes or what have you. I was raised to vote, my children were as well.

    We miss Kage and love that you keep her spirit so alive each and every post. We will think of her as we watch the results.


  7. Kate B says:

    I found this via your comment on another site about Mary Kingsley.

    I am so sad… “Kage Baker died because she was poor and uninsured and self-employed, and no one would hurry on her care. ” I came to this on the morning I started reading “The Healing of America” by TR Reid in which he writes in the prologue: “On Sept 11, 2001, some 3000 Americans were killed by terrorists; our country has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But that same year, and every year since then, some 20,000 Americans died because they couldn’t get health care. That doesn’t happen in any other developed country”.

    Remember Kage. Read this book. Get righteously angry. Then VOTE!


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