My very earliest perception of voting was formed as I watched my great-uncle drive to the county seat in Hamilton, Georgia to vote. I was perhaps 5 or 6, and didn’t fully understand why he attached such importance to the act. He was a man of few words, but I had learned to read his face, and I knew he was very happy that day.

     Uncle Morgan was born in 1900, and he took voting seriously. (I learned many years later that his grandfather — my great-great grandfather — was granted the voting franchise on Aug. 12, 1867, after he and thousands of other former slaves swore their allegiance to the United States.)

     I voted for the first time in 1978, the year Uncle Morgan died. I have tried to do it diligently thereafter in tribute to him — and to those who bled and died for me to have the franchise.

     But I confess: There were some elections in the intervening years that I’ve missed. My preferred candidate was too far ahead or behind, or I wasn’t interested, or was too busy.

     Not this year.

     This election feels important — really important, doesn’t it?

     Not in a purely aspirational way, like 2008 (although there is an element of that). This time, it feels really important to go into that voting booth to say, This is who we are as a nation, and who we are not.

     It feels like that’s what we have to do, after a political season that has been unbelievably base, unacceptably foul. Exercising the franchise this time feels like saying, We demand more of our political discourse. We are better than this.

     So I was really looking forward to Election Day, Nov. 8.

     But it felt like this was too important to wait. So I drove to the early-voting precinct this morning and walked in, savoring every step.

     I reflected on how fragile freedom really is.

     And then I voted my conscience, channeling Uncle Morgan.

     Then I drove back home and took a long, hot shower to wash away the grime of this political season.