I love this season! I love the conversations about the issues. I love the ads; the good, the bad and the maddening. I love the signs; the professionally done ones in fabulous colors with great logos and the homemade ones lacking in pizazz but not in passion! Some years it seems the competition is for the biggest sign. This year in Bangor it seems the competition is for the tallest sign. Nail it to whatever sticks and branches you can find just get it higher than everyone else’s! I love the phone calls (no really). I love talking to the folks whose day I can make by saying “yes” I’m voting for those things and I’m proud to. Sometimes I even like talking to those folks who are trying to sway my vote, figuring out their tactics and giving them food for thought they weren’t expecting. I love debates! I even love political ads and yelling at the TV when they are inaccurate and infuriating! I really do.
Some of my proudest moments as a mother have been watching my children become part of the process. Every one of my children has stood with me at one point at a candlelight vigil, a political rally, or held a sign alongside me at a protest! I have loved watching them find the issues that matter to them and then actively working for them, believing, knowing in fact, that they can be part of making the world a better place!
I loved meeting the people who are working for my daughter in her Lewiston office for the marriage equality campaign. I had the privilege of being there on a Sunday afternoon and my daughter gave me the job of finding something inspiring to say to them all before they hit the canvass trail for the day. I was so taken aback I can’t even remember exactly what I said, but I know we all ended up crying. I was more overcome with their courage than I have been with anyone in a long time. Some of her employees are young Somali women. Unfortunately, these young women in traditional dress with beautiful dark skin have met with a lot of prejudice while knocking on doors for this campaign, simply because of what they look like, before they even bring up the issues. While this saddened me to learn, I was so inspired by their bravery. I was so impressed that they keep knocking on doors every day for an issue that is dear to their hearts because in the country they come from, they would not have even had the privilege to be part of such a campaign, to be part of a political process that truly seeks to find the best for every one of its citizens. They know this. We often forget it.
My son remembers this. After serving overseas for many years in cultures of oppression, he knows more than anyone the true meaning of the words we throw around: democracy, freedom, rights. He has seen those who don’t have them and he knows their struggles. He has traveled with groups of friends (both in uniform and in civilian clothes) and had people marvel at the Americans who travel and enjoy themselves in a such a diverse group, men and women who are brown and white and any number of religions, who can be friends and comrades with no concern for the things that make them different. My son reminded people of this when politics got a little too heavy this week online and Facebook friends were “unfriending” each other over issues. He told his friends with different views that they were welcome to still be his friend and he hoped he was welcome to still be theirs because differences of opinion help people evolve and are truly what is beautiful about this country. And he reminded us all that “everyone wants mostly the same thing, we just disagree on how to get there.”
It’s true. We all want the same things. We want our families to be safe. We want to be able to practice our religions and hold our beliefs without fear. We want jobs and healthcare. We want our children to receive good educations in good schools. No one disagrees on any of this we just disagree on how to get there. It’s not a perfect system, but it is our system. It’s an ideal that people died for, that people continue to die for. Think of the countries in recent times where people have literally taken their lives in their hands for the chance to cast their vote. Remember the faces of the men and women we saw on the news, fingers stained in ink in proof their voices had been heard and then get out there and cast your vote. It matters.
In the end what comes of it? I will never forget the night we elected our first African American president. I will never forget leaving work early as election results were coming in and rushing to democratic headquarters at the Spectacular Event Center in Bangor.I stood with my best friend and we held hands in a room full of folks who had all fought long and hard together over the years for many causes. We stared at the giant monitor at the front of the room sensing a moment in history was about to occur. And then we knew for sure and the room grew silent as Barack Obama spoke. All of us, grown men and women, stood shoulder to shoulder and arm and arm and tears flowed because we knew that all those years of hard work had mattered. Every single vote had mattered. All the civil rights marches of decades before had mattered. People who had been killed because of their work for civil rights were vindicated in that moment. It wasn’t just a campaign slogan it was honest to goodness HOPE! People in countries all over the world saw the results of that election and had hope for their own countries, their own citizens.
No it’s not a perfect system and it’s full of imperfect people but is all ours. I can put a sign on my lawn, disagree with someone in public, write a letter to the editor, campaign door to door and fill my car with political bumper stickers and I don’t have to be afraid. Oh I might get some hateful emails, and my car has been keyed more than once, but I don’t have to be afraid of being arrested because of the political party I do or don’t belong to. I don’t have to fear for the safety of my family because of my political views. That’s a beautiful and precious gift. Don’t take it for granted.