The Fifteenth Amendment , the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the battle against Jim Crow were
moments that left an indelible mark on my childhood brain. Both the American
struggle as well as the international fights were taught to me via the
classroom, the church, home lessons, and my insatiable appetite for learning
through movies. I was well aware of the importance of political participation.
I was just never 100% on its power.
While I suffered
through my dad’s insistence on watching the news at home and listening to news
coverage in the car, and did
biannual treks to the voting booths with a parent, I was always slightly disengaged. For me, civic duties are better fulfilled through volunteer opportunities and donations to charities that actually do the work. Local politicians sometimes make a difference –and their sessions are hilarious- so I'll give
them their due as well. At any given point,Mr. President and his compatriots in
Washington did not seem to be making much of a difference to my personal life. Most of the
time, I felt like this poor child:
all I ever wanted to do was curl up with a good sitcom. The thought of Bill
O’Reilly all day made me cry.
To a certain
extent, I was not to be blamed. The first presidential election I
truly remember was Bill Clinton, with his smooth Arsenio Hall saxophone playing steez. In my Weekly Reader, I correctly predicted him to be the winner. By the
time I was in the 8th grade, he was impeached, yet somehow never had
to leave the office. Huh? It didn’t make sense to me. Then came Al Gore and
George Bush and pregnant chads that never got counted correctly. As far as I
was concerned America pretty much did whatever it felt like, not necessarily
what was right. The fact that welfare reform, dot com bubbles, and other major
events were occurring didn’t really matter. September 11th had to do
with politics, but in my personal bubble was more an affront against me, my
classmates, and my hometown. And John Kerry who?
Yet for some
reason between the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, it all began to make
sense. The importance of it all was in my face. Perhaps it was because I grew
up a bit. I did my own taxes, paid for my own healthcare, experienced
unemployment and dealt with grown
people problems. Spending time abroad really opened me to what people thought
of America, especially as it pertained to our foreign relations. Between the
blood diamond cultural awareness surge of 2006-2008, constant press about
Darfur, the earthquake in Haiti and the 10th anniversary of the
September 11th attacks, I had no choice but to pay more attention to
America’s interactions with foreign entities. I watched Arab Spring unfold via
twitter in between highlights of my favorite tv shows. The Tea Party and Occupy
Wall Street weren’t just movements, but also memes in my social media
procrastination. Politics were infringing on my pop culture obsessions and I
was being-dare I say- edutained by it all. To top it off, the historical and
cultural significance of the 2008 Obama election made it impossible to ignore
what was going on in the country. That, and I watched a whole lot more Colbert
Report when I did not have a bed time.
This election I
decided to engage. Instead of feeling like everything was happening to this
amorphous figurative “America” I began to see how it was happening to everyone
around me. I understood the anger and rage of those on both sides of the fence.
And then after hearing fallacious arguments and false corollaries, I felt the unthinkable happen. I moved
from apathy to concern, concern to disdain, and am possibly on my way to
righteous anger. The lives of every single person in the country were at stake,
and there was no way I could take people taking their personal minute concerns
over the rights and welfare of the nation. Quite frankly, unless you’re making
Romney money, I really do not understand. My little cousins need an education.
I need equal pay! Really, you can miss me with all of that air you’re blowing.
Doug Wright (no I don’t really know who he is, but it is a good quote, and it’s
all over the innanets) summed it
up best when he said: “Then look
me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, 'My taxes and take-home
pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights….'
It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and
apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. …You don’t get to walk away
clean, because you say you ‘disagree’ with your candidate on these issues.” He
was referring specifically to gay marriage, but it pretty much transfers to
anything at stake in the elections.
While I have
threatened to run away depending on the outcome of this vote, the great thing
about this country is there tends to be some kind of balance. We won’t end up
completely on either side of the spectrum, and life will go on without too much
interruption. But if nothing else, I hope the debates, constant coverage and
incessant talk of Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney can force my fellow disengaged
buddies to stop being apathetic, and give in to full, active participation…both
during the election season and afterwards.