WHY SHOULD ZOMBIES VOTE?
I learned the importance of voting when I was sixteen years old and I accompanied my mom to her swearing in as a United States citizen. For months ‘ama had been studying nightly, boning up for all the questions she would be asked on the citizenship exam. Well, she passed with flying colors and now the big day had come. Mom insisted we get up early that day. She dressed herself in a flowered dress she had bought just for the occasion and put on a hat, something she rarely did. She made me wear my white dress shirt and a tie.
“Mijo,” she said. “This is an important day and we need to look our best.”
The ceremony was conducted down at the Los Angeles Convention Center. This was in 1995 and they had just installed a large statue of some city official in the plaza in front of the large center and people were gawking at it.
Boy was the place packed! What caught my attention was that there were people from all backgrounds and all races here, all to be officially sworn in as United States citizens. Some folks came in suits, others in traditional dress from their country of origin, and, of course, lots of them just wore street clothes.
When the key part of the ceremony came, everyone holding their hands up to their chest and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, it really kind of choked me up. And not just me. I could see my mom’s eyes watering, and there were lots of people just openly weeping.
Wow, a real emotional moment, to be sure!
Afterwards, ‘ama took us to Olvera Street to celebrate. We ate lunch outdoors at her favorite restaurant, La Luz del Dia.
“Mijo,” ‘ama said in between bites of the #6 taco plate, “You’re lucky. You were born here in this wonderful country.”
“Yeah, ” I said, picking at the bone in my bowl of cocido. “I didn’t have to do a whole lot to be a good citizen.”
I hated eating out in public because I never got a chance to eat things I wanted to eat. Right now I was eyeing a sparrow that had landed on the table next to ours. It looked scrumptious!
“Being born here isn’t enough to make you a good citizen,” mom corrected. “You have to take responsibility to be a good citizen. You have to obey all the laws and you have to vote, to do your part in electing our government officials.”
“Mom, “ I said, “I’m a zombie. What does voting have to do with me? There’s no zombies running for office.”
“Mijo,” she said getting very serious. “You are a zombie and you are Mexicano, but you are also a United States citizen. And that is just as important than being a zombie or Mexicano. Maybe even more.”
I could see that I had struck a deep chord in mom. She was really getting worked up.
“I worked hard to become a citizen,” she went on,.“to have the RIGHT to vote. Mijo, do you know that in some countries they don’t let people vote. People have no say in who governs them. They are oppressed. Don’t take your country for granted.”
Okay, I had heard this sermon from ‘ama before. And it wasn’t that I didn’t agree with her. It was just the umpteenth time I had heard it.
“Got it, mom. First chance I get I’ll just go right out there and vote!’
“No seas grosero! Don’t you make fun of me, Lazaro!”
“Sorry, ‘ama, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Voting is a privilege. Something to be taken very seriously. Me entiendes? Don’t you forget that!”
I could see the passion in my ‘ama’s eyes. Suddenly I understood how deeply important being an American citizen and voting was for her. Mexicano or not, zombie or not, I realized that my citizenship and the right to vote should be important for me as well. I got up and walked around the table to ‘ama and put my arm around her.
“‘Ama, “ I said with total sincerity. “I won’t forget. And I’ll vote when I become of age. I promise.”
This Mexican zombie has voted in every election since I turned eighteen.
Copyright 2012 Lazaro de la Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions, inc.