I’ve never liked politics. I was raised in a family where one grandfather was a staunch democrat, and the other was just as loyal of a republican. I guess that is why in my immediate family I was taught that your vote should be for the best person for the job, not necessarily for a specific party… and that it is nobody’s business who you vote for… it is between you and the voting booth. Once you pull that curtain, you should vote your conscience. Other than those two things, we didn’t talk politics at all.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself dating a boy from a political family. One of Bill and my first dates was to a political fundraiser dinner where I had to have security clearance. It was like falling into the rabbit hole and discovering another world where things were not as they seemed. People said one thing and meant another. Loopholes were looked for intentionally. Passionate “discussions” where no one listens to the other person were the norm.
I’ll never forget one time when Bill brought his roommate home to dinner and casually asked him a question about Ronald Regan. His roommate, a very conservative guy, talked for a few minutes about how great Regan was. Bill smiled with a mischievous twinkle in his eye as his dad ripped into his friend telling him how Regan was ruining our country. The shock on his friend’s face as he turned all shades of red was visible from across the table. Bill just laughed and when his friend asked him, “Why didn’t you tell me your dad was a liberal?” he replied with “I thought it would be more fun to let him tell you himself.” Beyond learning to avoid political conversations if possible, I also learned that smoke and mirrors to get what you want is the norm.
I also found that there are some advantages to living in the fishbowl world where everyone knows your last name. If you are related to the “right” people, doors open for you that are closed to everyone else. But the opposite of that is also true. Some everyday things aren’t so every day when you belong to a certain family. Once Bill wrote in his day planner ‘Regan dies’ on a specific day because there was a silly rumor going around that certain presidents had died in office on certain days based on the number of letters in their name. Silly teenage stuff. Only his parents didn’t think it was so silly when the secret service showed up at their door inquiring about their son. It seems he had accidentally dropped his day timer at a movie theater, someone found it and looked through it to find who it belonged to. You can guess…they saw the note on the calendar, found his name, put it together with his dad’s political career and presto… investigators at the door.
Generally though I think that most everyone who got into politics did so to help people…at least originally. (I hear your teeth gnashing at this statement, but I believe it.) I don’t care on which side of the isle they sit. The differences between them are significant, but are born from different ideas on how to help others. If you look back, it has always been that way in our country and it is one of the things that makes our country great. We can disagree. Yet somewhere along the line the folks who were at one time moved to help and serve people got swallowed up by the system. At least, that is how it feels to me. And now I am disgusted, and discouraged. Honestly, I don’t feel there is anyone worth voting for anymore. So why vote? If I can’t find someone to vote for who can make a difference what is the point…yet, I will vote and I want to tell you why.
It wasn’t all that long ago in our country…less than a century…that women could not vote. They had no say in the decisions that affected their lives or the lives of those they cared about. They were not deemed educated enough to make those kinds of decisions, and were not considered citizens as defined in the 15th amendment which granted the right to vote to all citizens regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It said nothing about gender way back in 1870…so instead women fought and got an amendment of their own. The nineteenth. It was a hard fought battle, but in 1919 they were granted the right to vote…to have a say…to think for themselves. When I think of both these amendments I resist the urge to skip the voting booth.
In addition to the history of voting in the States, I am also moved towards my precinct by current day denials of the right to vote around the globe. I remember being shocked to see people line up in other countries…in some instances risking their lives…to cast a vote. We are so apathetic here it was foreign to me to watch passionate voting. Tears running down their faces as they proudly dipped their fingers in ink to show they voted. Seeing their courage demonstrated in a culture where radical governments have ruled for centuries, without any input from their citizens, inspires me and shames me at the same time. Taking my freedom for granted shows me that I have never suffered under totalitarian rule. I have not thought how fortunate I am to live in a country where I can speak and think freely. Instead I complain about how bad things are. It is laughable really.
Not to mention, all the soldiers who have fought for the freedom I enjoy…the rights that have been purchased with blood, sweat, and tears. In battles. In separations from family. In training. In operations. In hours, and months, and years. When I am tempted to pass on voting, I remember these sacrifices. I think, “Even though I don’t like my choices at the polls…at least I have a choice.” That, my friends, is big deal. A very big deal. Why vote? Because it is my right…and yours too. Don’t forget.