Pop, my Grandfather Williford, was a staunch democrat and a man of faith. He told me in no uncertain terms to NEVER vote republican. It was his belief that republicans were all that was wrong with America. As a newly registered first-time voter, I told him I didn’t even know which candidates were which. He asked me how I picked who I voted for, and I told him I voted for whoever had the most yard signs. That answer might have hastened his passing.
Granddaddy, my Grandfather Hunter, was a lifelong republican and a man of faith. Having pulled himself out of poverty using free enterprise he told me NEVER to vote democrat. It was his belief that America would fall if democrats ever got power. After my disastrous discussion with Pop, I decided never to tell Granddaddy my voting methods, so as to avoid the trauma it would have caused him.
When I got a little older, I learned that yard sign voting wasn’t the best way to select my candidate, so I tried to educate myself by watching the conventions. The trouble was that both sides made everything sound so wonderful. So many promises, and all of them seemed to be just what I needed. I learned that listening to convention speeches was about as effective a voting strategy as yard signs. Mostly fluff. Not much substance, and even less possibility any promises will be fulfilled.
I think the cognitive dissonance caused by trying to figure out the opposing views is why I have always considered myself an independent. It might also be, so I could honor both my grandfathers by voting for some of each party. Kids in school sometimes “Christmas tree” their standardized tests when they don’t know the answers. I’ll admit I understand the feeling. I even tried voting red, blue, red, blue all the way down my ballot, thinking that way things would be balanced. I know. Cringeworthy. It wasn’t until I had much more life experience that I learned how to research effectively and truly make my vote count in the way I wanted it to.
Coming from such opinionated stock, you would think my parents would have instilled one side or the other into us, but they didn’t. In fact, I would say we were almost non-political regarding conversations about candidates or even issues. However, the vote itself was highly valued in our household. Dad was a veteran from the United States Air Force. Love of country, the flag, and our freedom was woven into the red, white, and blue color scheme of our home’s décor. Recognizing and acknowledging that others fought and died for our right to vote brought with it a seriousness of the importance of exercising that freedom.
My mom told me my vote was my own. There was a reason it was a secret ballot and that I should vote for who I thought would do the best job. No one had to know who I voted for, in fact, it was no one else’s business; it was between me and the ballot. Looking back, I think she told me this because she likely voted the opposite of my dad. I also recognize the lack of political discussion was probably to keep their marriage intact. This strategy of silence continued on, even into more recent years when the grandkids began to have their own views around the table. The unspoken rule was no political discussions at family events.
The thing is I loved both of my grandfathers and they both loved me. They expressed their love in different ways, but I never doubted their hearts were for me. Both of them loved God and neither of them was perfect, but to me, they were exactly right. I could never choose one over the other based on their political views; that idea is preposterous to me. They both had compelling reasons for their opinions. Their life experiences, their upbringing, the communities they were raised in, the time in history in which they lived, all had a profound effect on their ideas. If I could have walked a mile in their shoes I likely would have understood their beliefs a little better.
The benefit for me is that I learned about perspective. The view of someone who grew up in poverty and made his way out. The view of someone who helped others his whole life. The view of being careful where and how, you spend your money. The view of being generous to overflowing. The view of making a difference in the world. Two men. Two views. But when I write them out in words like this, none of them seem opposing. In fact, it is hard to determine which view is which because they seem like they go together. In my mind, they did, anyway.
Above all, it was The Vote that mattered to them. They passed the importance of that right down through the generations. As the election approaches, I am keeping that tidbit in the forefront. Not every country has The Vote. Not every citizen values it. Here, many have fought and died for our right to disagree. Many have longed to tell the ballot their secrets. Many have struggled, marched, and demonstrated to have their voices heard. It is more important than ever before to speak up through…The Vote.