Last Friday, the day after Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination, I wrote "America is Throwing a Temper Tantrum," and the Huffington Post published it on the political page. The response was astonishing. On Facebook the piece reached thousands of people and started an avalanche of comments that still hasn't stopped a week later. Hours and hours of watching the most gripping Democratic National Convention in memory was punctuated by dozens of FB visits a day so that I could answer every single comment that came in, including ones from "friends of friends" who had shared my post with others.
It was one of these responses that came in yesterday from a woman I did not know, the only one out of hundreds that, strangely, I chose not to answer. I can only paraphrase, but this was the gist of it: "I'm so excited - my husband went out and I get to watch the DNC speeches in real time!" I didn't think too much about it before I went to bed after Hillary Clinton's nomination acceptance speech, all aglow with the sentimental (but spot-on) slogan, "Love trumps hate."
I've always been what some call a "bleeding heart liberal" and others a "commie, pinko socialist." My husband and I both cast our ballot for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. We knew it would be the only time we could vote our principles because, realistically, we knew that Hillary Clinton - with the Democratic machine behind her - was the one that would ultimately be chosen to oppose Donald Fucking Trump.
But at 3am this morning I was woken from a deep sleep by the words of that faceless Facebook woman. It was such a naked cry of freedom from a fellow American that I was momentarily paralyzed with emotion. It was like - I don't know - watching a movie about the Old South. The slave woman waiting for the armed plantation foreman to walk to the far corner of the cotton field so she can give her child a furtive hug. The Facebook woman's comment made me unutterably sad, yet it gave me hope.
I wondered: How many women today are in relationships in which the simple idea of watching someone give a speech on television is an act of rebellion? How many women are horrified by the words and deeds of Donald Trump but are so oppressed by their mates that they are forbidden to express their thoughts? What is their punishment if they do? And how many will obediently march into the voting booth and cast a ballot counter to their true feelings? Is it thousands? Millions?
I wonder if, on November 8th, the Facebook woman, in the privacy of the voting booth, will defy her husband and vote her conscience. By everything holy I hope she does. I wonder, too, how to get the word out to all conflicted women that there is no one on earth to stop you, or who can hurt you, if you perform this one private act of civil disobedience.
He will never know you voted for Hillary Clinton. It will be your secret till you die.
Or, at a later date, you might find your voice and the courage to speak your mind and say, "Hell yes, I voted for a brilliantly qualified candidate who has spent her life as a public servant and not the A-hole you wanted me to vote for, somebody that would have ripped this country to shreds and destroyed everything most sane people hold dear." Those words might prove uncomfortable. They might cause a fight or a rift between the two of you that will never quite heal. But I can guarantee that acting on your conscience and speaking the truth of your convictions will make you feel better at a gut level. It will make you stronger. And it will show you who you really are.
I hope you'll spread the word to anyone you know that needs to hear that what they do in the voting booth is their own business. "To thine own self be true." I am not exaggerating when I say that every vote cast in this election will count in changing the course of human history.
Please be a part of it!
Robin Maxwell is an historian and Los Angeles Times bestselling author of ATLANTOS, Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan and The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. Contact her at www.robinmaxwell.com or https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobinMaxwell.