When President Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night, there were many memorable moments. Perhaps one of the most moving, and certainly one that brought almost the entire crowd to its feet in applause, was his introduction of Desiline Victor.
The President was addressing the concerns with voter suppression that came to light during the 2012 election. He told Congress that in avoiding to address the issue, we are betraying our ideals. President Obama mentioned Mrs. Victor as an example. The 102-year-old Miami woman made two trips and waited a total of six hours to cast her early vote for President Obama in October 2012.
When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours, the President said. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102-years-old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read I Voted. (Source)
In a meeting with Philippe Derose, a North Miami Beach City Council member, Mrs. Victor explained her determination, and said that she looks at President Obama as a “son.” Derose translated for her:
She said even if she got dizzy or collapsed on the line, This is something I have to do.
Mrs. Victor’s experience and resolve to cast her vote no matter what she had to suffer, has become a symbol of the voting obstacles of Election 2012. Her determination inspired many people to endure waits of up to 8 hours in some districts to cast their votes.
She just wants everyone to know she wants everyone to vote, said Victor’s nephew, Mathieu Pierre-Louis, translating her words from Haitian Creole. She told him to say that her vote is special to her. (Source)
But everyone doesn’t understand that.
Predictably, the pundits began to pick apart her ordeal. Some questioned the validity of her naturalized citizen status because she doesn’t speak English. A few desperate Republicans even suggested she is a part of an Obama conspiracy of importing elderly dependent future democrat voters who are willing to wait three hours to vote for their son. (Source)
And it got worse. It turned to outright ridicule and cruelty. On Wednesday, Fox News hosts Brian Kilmeade, Martha MacCallum, and Bill Hemmer said that Victor shouldn’t be complaining (she’s not, by the way, the rest of us are) because she was “happy” after finally being able to cast her vote.
On Kilmeade’s Fox News radio show, MacCallum giggled and offered her opinion that Mrs. Victor’s situation was unimportant and should not have been included in the State of the Union address. She offered her opinion that these things should be handled at the municipal level? Get the town council on that one. MacCallum even said that the fault lay not with the voting issue in Florida, but with impolite people who wouldn’t let Mrs. Victor in front of them in line.
“How long was she in line?” Hemmer wondered. “What else was she doing”
“What’s the big deal? She was happy,” MacCallum quipped.”She waited in line, she was happy that she voted.”
“They held her up as a victim!” Hemmer agreed. What was she the victim of? Rashes on the bottom of her feet?”
What? Would these people not be horrified if their mothers or grandmothers endured such atrocities? You can listen to the disgusting audio of Fox News radio’s Kilmeade & Friends, broadcast Feb. 13, 2013.
The comments section of this article reveals the reality behind the honest feelings that decent human beings have about the GOP and Fox News. One of the readers said, “[They] have no idea how evil and utterly disgusting they sound outside of their conservative bubble.” The reader is correct. They really DO have no idea how they sound.
The Huffington Post reported that “Desiline Victor Gets Standing Ovation At Obama’s State Of The Union Address.” No, she didn’t. Speaker of the House John Boehner remained seated. So did many other Republicans. No doubt they saw this as a “ploy” on the part of the Obama Administration to gain sympathy. Rather than put politics aside and stand in respect for a woman who doesn’t take her rights for granted, they disrespected her, the American voting process, and succeeded in showing the entire world what they are made of.
Before I saw this news article and wrote this story, I had a conversation last night about my disgust with Speaker Boehner not standing to applaud Mrs. Victor. My conservative friends, love them though I do, were completely baffled as to what was “the big deal.” That’s what I keep seeing over and over. “What’s the big deal?” they kept asking me. None of them offered an answer to my question: “If it were your grandmother, would you feel differently?” These are the kinds of questions conservatives block and pretend not to hear.
One of my friends intended, I believe, to offer up the tu quoque of high-ranking politicians not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. I saw it coming and stopped it, explaining that I stand for the Pledge and the National Anthem, but that these two issues are apples and oranges. I explained that while I respect our patriotic traditions, I am far more concerned about human beings than I am about rituals.
Desiline Victor is what America is supposed to be about. She is the face of what all of us are supposed to be fighting to protect. She came here as an immigrant in 1989, earned her citizenship in 2005, and cast her first ballot in 2008. In October, she proudly stood in line to cast her vote in this country that she has made her home. Encapsulated, that is the American story; it’s who we are supposed to be. How can anyone not grasp this basic premise?
Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, the civil rights advocacy group that brought Mrs. Victor’s story to the attention of the White House, called her the American voter story of 2012. (Washington Post)
“It’s clear Ms. Victor’s story is a story that shows the tenacity of a voter to overcome barriers,” Dianis said. “Unfortunately, there were dozens who didn’t get to vote because of problems.”
Ms. Victor’s story of waiting for hours to vote is both inspirational and tragic at the same time. Thousands applauded her when she emerged with her “I Voted” sticker and her dedication was the reason why many of them decided to stick it out despite the long wait. What we need, however, are federal standards for voting. Unfortunately, we have 13,000 election jurisdictions that run elections 13,000 different ways. That is what we have to fix. (Huffington Post)
Last night, my conservative friends suggested that I was over-reacting. Liberal friends stepped up to defend me and said that I was not. But I’ll take that label proudly. All of us who are fighting for human rights will take that label. One of the definitions of the word “react” is “act against or in opposition to.” It’s not enough to react. Reacting may bring some notice to our cause, but we need more than that. Desiline Victor didn’t react. Someone else reacted on her behalf, and the Advancement Project “over-reacted.”
President Obama “over-reacted” by bringing her from Florida to the White House.
We’re not content with just getting noticed. We want change. It’s when we over-react that the wheels of change begin to turn.
See video of Desiline Victor at the State of the Union Address: