This post will be different. This post will be about the most patriotic moment of my life. This post will strictly be about my experience voting abroad, for the 2012 Presidential Elections.
Yesterday, I finally received my absentee ballot in the mail. I would have normally been extremely excited to vote for the President of the United States for my first time, but bubbling in my votes on a sheet of paper from Italy, just did not feel so patriotic. In my American Foreign Policy class soon after completing my ballot, my professor said that the deadline to turn ballots in to the U.S. Embassy in Rome had passed, and he warned us that the Italian postal service is slow and unreliable…that it was becoming too late for those of us who had not yet voted.
Freaking out that I may not be able to get my ballot back to the states on time, I did what I always embarrassingly do in a time of crisis…call my dad. After reviewing and researching all stressful and expensive mail options, we decided that my best bet was to mail my ballot through Vatican City, instead of Rome (Note: The area around the Vatican has its own government, own police force, and own postal service separate from the rest of Rome. Its postal service is said to be much more efficient and reliable).
Bright and early this morning, I put on my sneakers, plugged in my ear phones and determined to fulfill my civic duty, I began my thirty-five minute walk to the Vatican with my sealed ballot in hand. This was the first time I had walked to the center of the city alone, and the first time I had realized how well I knew my way around it.
Finally turning in to Vatican City, it hit me that I felt WEIRD. I mean there I was, about to cast my first vote for a U.S. Presidential Election, and I was approaching this massive masterpiece of holy art surrounded by thousands of tourists snapping photographs, and priests wearing full-length black robes walking the crosswalks with me. I was way out of my comfort zone (not to mention, I’m Jewish). Still, I somehow felt AWESOME. There was something about walking the streets of such an ancient and respected place with my ballot, that somehow made me feel more at home, and more patriotic than ever.
The post office was an arms length away from being able to touch the Vatican itself, and everyone there was there to send out post cards with an image of the Sistine Chapel on it. I was the only American, and the only one with a large package which would hold up the line. Nervously approaching the postal worker, I revealed my election ballot package to him and told him that I needed it to arrive in Miami before November 6th.
Everyone around me was staring at me and my package; and they all dropped their typical annoyed “day-at-the-post office” attitudes and gave me a nod and a smile as if they all suddenly respected me or something; respected me for going out of the way as a study abroad student to walk to Vatican City to place my vote for a political election in the nick of time. (From what I have learned from speaking with Roman locals, the Italian political system has little citizen participation. They do not like the idea of politics all together (understandable) but they respect that my system, the American system, generally works).
I was handed 2 Vatican City Poste stamps with the Pope’s face on them to lick and stick to my ballot, and was told that it would arrive in America within the week. Oddly, that there, was the most powerful, patriotic and (only) Pope-blessed moment that I have ever had.