Hoping to beat the crowds, I went to the polls this morning about 6:30.
There was already a long line.
Despite the fact I wasn’t happy with my choices, I was struck by the beauty of the experience.
I get to vote.
I get a say.
I was standing across the aisle from a soldier and his wife. He was dressed in his military uniform — physically fit, handsome, and calm.
His calm really struck me.
Finally I said quietly, “Who do you want to be your Commander-in-Chief?”
“I’m in uniform ma’am and I am strictly prohibited from talking about politics when I am representing the United States military,” he politely replied.
Well, bless your beautiful, patriotic American soul, I thought.
Then, I thought of my son-in-law who is joining the Army this month.
Who do I want to be his Commander-in-Chief?
As I walked to the voting machine, this question was still swirling in my mind.
Again, I may not love my options, but I have a choice in who I want to run our country.
Not everyone in the world can say that.
Last week I went to a book discussion with the author of Quest For Freedom, a book about Son (Samuel) Ngoc Nguyen’s escape from Communist Vietnam.
After the Vietnam War, when the Americans pulled out and Saigon fell, the Communists took over the country. The government confiscated money and property and started punishing the South Vietnamese soldiers who had fought for freedom.
Since Son’s father supported the war against Communism, his family was punished severely.
When Son was five years old, he, his parents and 10 siblings were forcibly relocated.
After a few months, they returned to find their home had been destroyed. His neighborhood had turned into a ghost town.
“We were lost. Our family had no food, no work, and none of the staples of home,” he wrote. Eventually, they ended up in a makeshift village. They were assigned a small piece of land where they needed to live and learn to farm to survive. They basically lived in bamboo huts with straw roofs — no running water, electricity, schools, stores or transportation.
Son was 11 years old when he planned to escape Vietnam. Eleven!
Even though he knew of thousands who had died pursuing that dream, he had to do it. He wanted more than anything to live in the United States of America.
He said, “Nothing else mattered to me.”
At 11 years old, he paddled a canoe through the dark of the night to board a boat bound for a refugee camp. Fifteen minutes into his journey, there was a loud burst of gunfire. The person next to him was shot and killed. They were captured, towed back to shore, and thrown in prison for three months.
He tried and failed two more times. Still, he said, “I prayed every day and night for another escape opportunity,” he said.
His prayers were answered in 1986 when he was 16 years old.
He made it onto a small fishing boat packed with 97 other people. He spent days on the open, dangerous ocean before eventually ending up in a refugee camp in Malaysia, about 1,000 miles from Vietnam.
As a young teenaged boy, he stayed in the refugee camp for two years before finally being allowed to come to the United States.
Someone asked him at the book discussion what he likes most about America.
He said he’d need to write a very large sequel to answer that question because he loves so much about America, but mostly his freedom.
Then he paused and said, “And, I love the American flag and what it represents.”
His wife said she couldn’t count how many pictures he’s taken of the flag. He can’t get enough of it.
So, while I might be unhappy about a raucous election year and feel troubled over how to vote, and worried about our future, Son reminds me of what it means to be an American and to have a say.
Thank you Son for giving me perspective and for reminding me of the price you paid for your liberty and for the blessing of freedom.