By Tracy Uttley
Today I vote. I vote for my great-grandmother who was forced to swallow her anger. I vote for my grandmother who passed on the art of silencing her voice to my mother. I vote for my mother who does not believe her voice or her vote matter. I have swallowed my words for decades. I traced the origins of not using my voice over many generations.
In 1929, in the dead of winter, my great-grandfather and his nine-year-old son Gib hooked up the horse and buggy and gave my great-grandfather’s bachelor brother, Frank, a ride to the train. Frank planned to hop boxcars back to his home in Wallaby Island, Washington. My great-grandfather made a spur of the moment decision to give Gib to Frank, so Frank would have someone to help him on his farm.
He did not ask my great-grandmother as women had no say, no voice in such matters. When my great-grandmother learned what her husband had done, she imploded with rage. My great-grandmother never saw her son again. Her anger seethed inside of her, turning bad as it was swallowed down and choked back. She literally did not speak for fifteen years, eventually losing her ability to talk at all. In her final years, she lived with my grandparents, introducing my mother to the dark art of silencing her voice.
As a child, I tiptoed around my mom’s nonverbal cues. She took her anger and stuffed it way down deep, tightening the lid until it would boil over as a scalding silence. I learned later in life that her silent treatments were protests to my dad’s dalliances. For over a half of a century, I have silenced my voice. I have put on a smile to make sure my anger did not make anyone feel uncomfortable. I bottled it up, hiding it, and disguising it, only allowing nice and pleasing words to leave my mouth. Knowing my words would not be heard or welcomed, I kept them to myself.
I cannot hold my voice in anymore. It cannot be bottled up for one more second. My fury has been building like hot potatoes, burning my mouth as I speak them. I say out loud the issues I hold close to my heart. I am claiming my voice and the power that infuses my voice. I use my voice to heal the past, change the present and build the future. I use my voice to leave a thread for someone to catch when I am gone. I use my voice to change our children’s lives and their futures. I use my voice to implement social justice. I use my voice to drive political change. I use my voice as a bright Light to inspire others to stand forward in their Light. We are part of a movement, that goes beyond moments of success or loss. We are awakening to our voice because the world needs us because our ancestors and children need us. Today we vote.