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Posts tagged: Voting

Many voices, one leader

Election Day, finally!

When I woke up this morning I remembered the election days of my youth. My parents would host or attend a party – on a school night! They would wear those silly straw hats trimmed in red, white and blue, and wear big buttons sporting their presidential candidate’s name. The women wore dresses, the men loosened their ties, ties since the husbands had arrived straight from work. These friends would eat snacks and huddle around the television. Occasionally I would hear someone holler, “Pennsylvania is in!”

I learned a lot from watching them. Not how to vote, not which party to claim, but  I learned the importance of voting, of knowing the issues, listening to the candidates and their views. When we educate ourselves and reflect on how we want our country and our local communities shaped, when we study the men and women who want our votes, we participate in the democratic process.

When I was in Latin America, I heard the stories about the former dictators and the soldiers on the streets who would shoot anyone who came near the dictator’s residence. People simply survived, somehow, in that chaos and tyranny.

In the United States of America, we have slung mud, shouted opinions, debated until our voices end up hoarse. And today, we pull the lever, drop off the ballot, and watch as our choices form one decision.  

We have been heard – and that privilege is worth a party, straw hats and all.

(S-R archives photo)

A male’s mail call

Our ballots for voting came in the mail today – and my heart did a little dance.

Not because I am eager to vote – although I am – but because this time there were three ballots in our mailbox. Our son, Alex, will vote for the first time.

When I asked him to watch the first presidential debate with me, he stayed 10 minutes. He detested the tone of “yelling” he perceived and announced, “I know who I am going to vote for anyway” and left the room.

 I don’t know if he perceives the privilege that voting offers. And I wonder how to impart that wisdom. As a student, traveling in 1976, I experienced some lack of freedom in other countries: a whistle blew as a fellow student paused in Prague, kneeling down to tie his shoe. He was admonished and told to get up and keep moving. In Moscow, I left the group and meandered through Gumms, a large department store. When I stopped to snap a photo with my Kodak Instamatic, a guard appeared and shook his finger at me, “Nichts!” Of course, these are simple actions. Still, it was Communism that governed and its citizens did not enjoy democracy.

 These stories matter not to my son, who wants only to vote for the candidates who will make life just for others. Even when he was a toddler, Alex often asked about a person’s character. When Becky showed him a statue of President Lincoln, he asked her, “Did he like children?”  We vet our candidates according to our values.  

I plan to sit down with Alex, his ballot, the voter’s pamphlet and probably a cheese pizza. Not because I will tell him how to vote, but to answer questions and watch him as he ponders choices, a privilege that never ceases to amaze me. No bloodshed or coups, instead we elect our leaders through a peaceful, informed process, with information at hand - served with a main course of pizza and, hopefully, a healthy side dish of enlightenment.

(S-R archives photo)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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