Friday, September 26, 2008

The one I've been avoiding

In the fall of 1992 something happened that forever changed my view of politics and political conversation. In case you don't remember, 1992 was the year Bill Clinton was elected to his first Presidential term. It was also the year that my parents (my mom and step dad) got married. And it was in that same year that they nearly divorced. Over the election.

They married in March of that year. Just in time for the election season to get into gear. Since I couldn't vote for another eight years I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the political madness. We talked about it in school and on election night I had to color in a map of the US according to which candidate won which state. But other than that the most I remember about the political front was how my parents disagreed on which candidate to vote for. I don't remember the conversation getting heated-that is until election day rolled around.

We were all home for the night and my parents started talking about their poll experience that day, skirting the issue that eventually sparked their conflict. My step dad finally asked my mom who she voted for. She didn't want to say, so she just looked at him. That look told him everything he needed to know. She had not, in fact, voted how he would have liked. That is to say, she didn't vote the same way he had. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure that she voted for a single thing the same way he had on that particular ticket.

And then came the rage, from both of them. I'm not sure exactly why my step dad was upset. There are two possible reasons. 1) He thought that she should vote like he told her because he was her husband and she should be subservient, or 2) His political convictions were so strong that he could not stand the idea of the other candidate winning and knowing that, if that happened, his wife would have assisted that in happening. I'm betting on number 2. My mom was just pissed off that he seemed to think her incapable of making up her own mind. She had, after all, been voting and taking care of herself long before he came along. She was an intelligent, independent woman and she could and did vote for the candidate that she thought best. Not based on his opinions or anyone else's. Her political beliefs were entirely her own, and still are.

Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that one is at fault more than the other or that either should have bowed to the other's political wishes. They were both entitled to their own opinions. They, unfortunately, didn't see it that way.

I don't remember everything that was said that night. I do remember that we (my mom, my brother and I) packed a suitcase and went to stay with my grandparents that night. And the night after that I believe. Then two dozen red roses arrived with an apology and we went back home. You should know that my step dad isn't really one for romance and I can't remember a time before or after that he sent my mom flowers, and especially not two dozen of them.

Ever since that election we didn't discuss politics in our house. At least, not with each other. My mom still gets really angry at the television and talks trash to it, as if it can hear her. We just ignore her or try to keep the remote out of her hands all together.

Also, as a result of that fateful night in 1992, I don't discuss my personal politics with anyone. I do love a good debate, but usually I stay out of it unless I can assume the roll of devil's advocate. I never pick sides, at least not publicly, and no one knows who I vote for. Not even Andy.

I feel like politics are a very personal, individual thing. Much like I believe religious convictions to be an internal decision. I don't think it's anyone's business who I vote for or how I'm registered, anymore than it's their business how I worship. I try very hard not to be swayed by the opinions of those around me and I take in as much political information as I can handle, and from alternate sources so as to avoid a biased view.

What I will say is that, particularly now, it is extremely important for all those able to cast their vote this November. I hope that they are casting it as an educated American, and not as someone who comes to the polls and picks who they think is better looking. An uninformed vote is just as bad as not voting at all. So, if you are going to vote this year, regardless of who you cast your vote for, please make sure you know as much about each candidate as possible. Know who you are choosing. That is all any of us can ask.

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