Monday, November 5, 2012

Pianos, Passports, and Politics: Why You Need to Vote Tomorrow

My husband left his country of origin with his parents and three siblings. He doesn't remember; he was only two. But they were empty-handed, especially my mother-in-law, who was stripped of even her wedding rings. They were Cuban refugees seeking political asylum in the United States. It was the beginning of a family, although united in Christ, being divided by political boundaries much like the Berlin Wall. Mere brick or ninety miles of gulf water: so close, yet so far. Only within the last year have the remnants of his extended family been able to get out, some forty years later. Many never saw one another again face to face.

Mike's dad was an accountant and an opera singer. He rode motorcycles and was the choir director at church. After the Revolution and Castro made known his communist intentions, the government instructed those who wanted to leave the country to come to a government office to register. Mike's dad felt betrayed and siezed the opportunity to leave. The father of four found himself jobless the next morning at 8:00.

He turned his kitchen into a black market bakery and sold cakes on the street to support his family: his wife, his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law and his four children ages 7, 5, 2, and newborn for two long years of waiting before they could leave.

Government officials came to their home to take inventory of their personal belongings, which somehow were no longer personal or belongings but had become confiscated property of the Cuban government. The day before they boarded a plane with only a few clothes to their name, inventory was taken again. All had to be accounted for. Their piano broke in the meantime, and they had to replace it before they could leave. A farewell gift to the Revolution, I suppose. Even family photos were denied them. Why? They left stripped of their dignity, their belongings, and their freedom.

They adopted a new country, and, gratefully, a great country adopted them. I was there when Mike swore oathed allegiance and became a naturalized U.S. citizen twenty years later.

Stories like these are not just movie scripts or six o'clock news. They are the burden and heartbreak of people I love, and countless others worldwide that remain disconnected from me by the peace, security, and freedom I expect rather than treasure in this nation of mine.

Freedom is a responsibility, one I no longer take for granted, and one I exercise every election day. We Americans have an obligation to participate in our own governance.

I am thankful for a free nation. I am thankful for the right to vote. I am thankful that our shores attract the hurting, the oppressed, the sick, and the needy. Because of a free society that promotes prosperity, we are able to meet the needs of others who turn to us, and I'm thankful for that too.  I am thankful for one lonely stamp in a baby's passport that sent him from oppression to freedom and changed his life, and mine, forever. And I am thankful that He whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36, ESV).

Politics matter. Let your one voice be one voice that is heard tomorrow.
Ministerio Del Interior, Inmigración, Cuba, Salida [Exit], Diciembre 7, 1967
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An edited repost from the archives as I think on this election day.

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