Tuesday, November 6, 2012
My Election Day Essay
I voted this morning. I guess you can tell from the photo how I voted. It reflects a lot of my values. I believe in giving all of our kids the best education we can. I believe in quality public schools, well-paid teachers and small classes. I also believe in Head Start for kids born into less fortunate circumstances. I believe in public television and public radio. I believe in the arts. I believe in a clean environment and conservation of wild places.
It isn't always easy for me to express myself about politics and values. I grew up in a strictly Republican family. Once my grandfather insulted his sister by saying "My God, Ruth, you look like a Democrat". Then the Vietnam war happened. I was a student at Kent State when the National Guard shot and killed four students. My Republican father was shaken to the core; he said "It could have been my own daughter they killed". He lost faith in the Republican governor who had called in the guard. He became disillusioned with Nixon. I heard people blaming the students for protesting the war in the first place. I heard a lot of people saying, "America, love it or leave it".
Well, the first time I voted, I voted for George McGovern. My father was confused, conflicted. He was shocked that his oldest daughter would vote for a Democrat. He was beginning to have doubts of his own, though he never talked about it. My mother is a devout Christian, who told me when I got divorced I would go to hell. I had a dream of being in a Cathedral, looking up at the stained glass window. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck, shattering the window and shaking me awake with the crash. I was guilty and afraid.
After I graduated from college and got married, I moved away from my midwestern roots. I was exposed to many people with many beliefs. My childhood beliefs were being challenged. I had been taught by Catholic nuns as a child. I got into trouble with a priest when Vatican II announced new rules, and I asked "does that mean all the people who went to hell for eating meat on Friday get out now?". As many young people do, I questioned my faith throughout my college years. I responded by reading a lot of books about all the religions of the world. My ideas expanded to include many different possibilities.
Now I live in an area where my political leanings are in the minority... I live in a "Red State". After living in a "Blue State" for a number of years, it hasn't been easy. I am hesitant to share my ideas and my beliefs. I am afraid people will "shun" me. My own niece, when I told them who I voted for four years ago said, "you can't be in our family any more". When my extended family came to my house for a holiday I put up a "NO POLITICS" sign because it makes me uncomfortable to have to defend myself. I guess I am too sensitive, but I don't like conflict. This election year has been full of conflict and hard feelings, and it breaks my heart.
So, what are the answers? I don't know. I just vote the way I believe and don't try to change the minds who believe differently from me. For example, I don't say anything when my mother quotes Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. I still love her, whatever she believes. I wish more people could love each other no matter what they believe. I wish I could be more sure that people will still accept me when they know what I believe.