Thursday, September 02, 2004

'Vote for me and I'll set you free...'
I went to the American Counsulate today to get more pages for my passport which was rapidly filling up with China/Hong Kong border stamps due to frequent trips to Shenzhen and - more importantly - to get an absentee ballot request.
It's the most work I've put into the democratic process since running for Class Clown in my graduating high school class. (I lost to a guy who went on to shill used cars in Longmont, Colorado, so perhaps there is some cosmic justice). The counsulate is a 30-minute subway trip and then a sweat-soaked 10 minute hike up a steep road to what amounts to a bunker-like fortress build into a Hong Kong hillside. Probably due to terrorist concerns, there's no US flag waving or Marine guards advertising its presence, only large metallic letters set into a concrete wall identifying it as the United States of America Counsulate.
Outside a group of mostly elderly and sliding-quickly-into-that-demographic Fan Lung Gongites were holding a silent vigil. They were dressed in identical bright yellow T-shirts printed with messages in Chinese and English that basically told Beijing to eat dirt. While banned and at risk of torture, death and imprisonment on the mainland, they are free to plead their case in Hong Kong. Just exactly, though, why they were standing outside the US Counsulate to do so wasn't quite clear...maybe they just felt safer there.
I picked my way through the solemn FLG and after surrendering my cell phone and lighter to one security guard and passing the wand test from another, I went up one flight to a waiting room and took a number.
It wasn't packed and more like a doctor's waiting room with obscure outdated periodicals such as In Vivo ("A monthly newsletter covering the latest advances and news at Columbia University Medical Center''!) but I was heartened to see that most of my fellow Americans were also there for absentee ballot requests. Perhaps with democracy's fragile status in Hong Kong being constantly at risk due to Beijing Big Brother - or maybe because of some pro or con ripple effect from the GOP convention - we were there to exercise our right to get an absentee ballot providing we weren't convicted felons or "adjudicated mentally incompetent."
After about an hour an fifteen minutes I had more passport pages and a ballot request form to send to the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder. Thank gawd I don't live in Florida, I thought. Odds are it would never reach the right office, or if it did the odds are about as great that the ballot wouldn't arrive on time or would be "damaged" and "invalid" by the time it did. As we left the building, several of us were comparing notes and while four out of five shared a general loathing for Dubya and one mocked Schwarzenegger's convention speech, one woman from - surprise! - Sacramento stood up for both.
"Well, at least you care enough to vote. I guess we can just agree to disagree about for whom," I said diplomatically.
She smiled pleasantly and nodded. Then I sucker-punched her in the solar plexis. As she collapsed, stunned and wheezing, a guy from Alaska and another one from Wisconsin kicked her in front of a speeding double decker Hong Kong bus. Another, from North Carolina, picked up her ballot request and tore it to pieces, laughing and screaming "Exercise this right you wretched Republican hag!" as we watched her body flip-flop like a broken doll under the skidding bus's wheels.
All in all, a good day for democracy.

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