I am so bloody relieved that this election cycle is over. I voted yesterday. As I do in every election. I take my civic duty seriously. I consider my right to vote precious. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I – as a woman and and ethnic minority – didn’t possess the right to vote. And, after this election cycle, I wonder what rights of mine and my family will be at stake because we are part of the lgbtq community.
I’m exhausted with the contentious and hostile political atmosphere. I get it. I understand why it exists, how all parties contribute to it and that it likely won’t change in the near future. But, last night, for the first election cycle in decades, I could not – did not want to – watch the election results. My family went with me when the polls opened so that we could vote and continue to instill in Shortstack the sense of duty that we want him to appreciate when it comes to voting and participating in the political process. But then I blocked everything out. No news reports, no social media updates. Panda would mention some highlights for a couple of races she knew I was concerned about – but even those updates were often met with a half-hearted acknowledgement from me.
I could go on a rampage about my fears with the pendulum swinging back towards the conservative right but I don’t want to stream any of my energy into that discussion. Today, I am grateful to all of the women who came before me, who struggled and fought to ensure that females in this country would be guaranteed the right to vote (Women’s Right to Vote: 19th Amendment – ratified in 1920) and that there was a movement of people who pushed and prodded to ensure that all citizens, no matter their racial minority status, would have the right to vote (Voting Rights Act of 1965). I think often on the societal wars that are communities and nation are wrestling with and I wonder which populations will need to continue to suffer at the hands of the majority because of a fear of change and an inability to recognize that difference isn’t a justified reason for oppression.
These next two years will, again, be brimming with political accusations, blame-placing pissing contests and, I predict, little substantive work will be achieved to actually improve the state of this country – much less our local communities. There will be culture battles over religion vs societal norms and diversity and differences will be ostracized and demonized. Our public education system will continue to fail and fall further behind in the ability to adequately prepare our children for opportunities in the future, the wage gap between the lower and upper classes will continue to widen and our middle class will all but disappear. The social service needs of the most vulnerable in our communities will be ignored and the services that are currently in place will be decimated. Reproductive rights and gender equity will be pooh-poohed. Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? It’s heartbreaking.
So, yesterday my wife and I reinforced our son’s dedication to his civic duty. Today, I sit here disillusioned and disappointed in the direction that the political warfare has taken us. But the next lesson that I believe we need to pass on to our son is, perhaps, the most profound in his civics development: at the most fundamental level, civics isn’t about political parties. Right-wing, left-wing agendas are not the end-all, be-all of your duty as a community member or a citizen. At the very root of your duty as a citizen is humanity. Each and every one of us has a unique experience in this world. And the only way for all of us to exist in a harmonious manner and to move forward as a society is to respect. Respect ourselves. Respect others. Respect differences. Respect divides. Respect compromise. Respect connections.
I’m not ready to jump into this lesson yet. Right now I’m still in the “respect ourselves” stage … and I need to respect that I’m weary of the rhetoric and I need some time to move beyond my frustration of this most current cycle before I am prepared to be hopeful again.
I voted. I am proud of my vote. I am grateful that I have right to vote. It’s a good day to be an American.