was riding in the back seat of my parents’ white Buick Le Sabre, as my mom pulled into the large fairgrounds in New Jersey, leaving my dad at a rally for Lyndon B. Johnson for president. In 1964 I was nine years old and to this day I remember the tension in the car between my parents riding in the front seat of the car. My mom was and is a “cloth coat Republican” just like Pat Nixon; a regular “Rockefeller Republican,” even though I hasten to share the information that that branch of the modern GOP is, well, a relic of its collective past. She was going to vote for Sen. Goldwater for president and she was furious with my dad because he was going to vote for Johnson. If memory serves me correctly, that was the last time my mom and dad voted against each other. Since then, my brother and I canceled out my parents’ vote, voting solidly the Democratic Party line.
Politics was and is part
of my family discussion topics at dinnertime when I was growing up, as
was religion and other current events of the day. “The McLoughlin Group”
and later “Washington Week” were part of our television viewing habit.
While my parents usually lean to the Republican right on talking points —
with my mom fixed to Fox newscasts — it nonetheless gave my brother and
I something to hone our skills as debaters and intellectuals. If we
weren’t going to follow their political thinking, then we (like
generations of children before us) would have to think logically about
where we either agreed or diverged from what our parents thought.
Separately, but around the same time, my brother and I came “out” to my
parents and told them that we were Democrats. Frankly, this may have
upset my mom more than telling her I was gay.
Habits and interests
in our adult lives are formed early in our childhood. Knowing this, I
watched carefully and with tenderness as I worked at an early voting
election site in early May. I observed a mom pushing an infant in a
stroller with one hand, while holding the hand of a slightly older child
with the other hand, and a dad precariously balancing a child on their
shoulders into the voting booth. What soon turned out to be the hot
ticket item at our table was a round blue teal sticker that said “I
Voted Against Amendment 1!”
All morning long, children and adults
alike began to wear stickers against Amendment One. For anyone reading
this outside of N.C., Amendment One will amend our Constitution
declaring that the only legally recognized union is only marriage
between one man and one woman. One child put the sticker in the middle
of the “S” of his Superman T-shirt, while a little girl simply placed
the sticker on her arm, complementing the sticker on the other arm that
she got from Trader Joe’s. Moms and dads also wore the stickers on their
clothes as they walked into the voting area, showing others that they
were going to vote against Amendment One. In this classroom of life,
parents were teaching their children that politics matter, can be fun
and is important enough that a mom or dad would interrupt one’s daily
schedule of fun activities to practice a civil right: the right to vote.
Parents are teaching children that voting matters in our collective
life and is important for the greater good of the diverse community in
which we live.
Later in the day, my 19-year-old son texted me,
telling me that he voted. My daughter had already voted too. Regardless
of the outcome of this election, a lesson has been learned: vote. And,
where did they learn to vote? From their parents, who learned in from
their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before us. : :
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