While I am not one to share political opinions on social media despite my interest in current events, I’ve always been enthusiastic about encouraging everyone I know to vote. I’m sure it is attributed to my own upbringing, one where my grandfather fought in the military, and while he wasn’t necessarily responsible single handily for our voting freedom, he swore to protect our country and fight for our democracy. I know this is why my father has always been passionate about our right to vote. Even if he doesn’t agree with your political views, he always advocated for everyone’s freedom to vote. And if for some reason you didn’t vote, if you value non-confrontational conversation, you definitely shouldn’t tell him.
It is with this same value, I eagerly await time for early voting.
Of course, 2020 has been anything but dull, and that included our election season, but there was something special about bringing my child to the polls for the first time. It is in this reflection, though, I can’t help but give pause to the current climate of our country, state, beloved city. National far-away issues have crept into our local politics, creating even more division in our community. It has devastated me as I hope Lafayette can be a home for my daughter, for her to experience fully, wrapped in culture and diversity.
If it were possible to teach her in this moment, two major themes come to mind.
I would teach her to continue to treat everyone with kindness. Kindness is ingrained in our child’s education the moment they start grade school, and it should continue to follow us into adulthood. No matter our walk of life, political party, color of our skin, always assume the best intent in people. Just be nice.
In a similar vein, and I know it’s cliche, but being part of the solution will propel you much further in life than adding to the problem. Each time someone shares a divisive meme on their social media or starts a conversation that insults a whole group of people, it only adds fuel to the fire. It does nothing to help reach a solution. No one hears a combative perspective if they disagree, and it only continues to alienate others. I would encourage my daughter to instead, when faced with an opposing view, strive to find where you agree, where there is commonality. Many times, we all have the same goal, we just differ on the way to achieve it.
But alas, my daughter is only nineteen months and I cannot communicate any of these profound and insightful nuggets of wisdom.
Still, I took her with me to early vote, on the very first day of early voting, being the overachiever that I am. I was worried that she would lose her mind waiting in line, but for some reason I felt up for the challenge — not my normal response. The best part of the experience for me, while yes there seemed to be tension in the air, it was melted away at my daughter’s delighted squeaks and giggles. She quickly became a favorite in the room, giving sweet eyes to the poll worker behind the plexi-glass screen and the older gentleman behind me waiting for his turn.
I have never voted so fast in my life.
I held her hand in one hand, and the other had my phone, pulling up my trusty ballot on GeauxVote which I completed in advance. At one point, she escaped my grip and ran away, almost colliding with another unassuming and innocent voter. I mumbled my apology and quickly brought her back to my station. In lightning speed, I scrolled through the ballot on my phone, trying to transcribe my choices on the screen. There was no time to second guess or re-read amendments. My time was almost up. I voted. I then yanked the voting card out of the ballot machine and let her lead me to the exit. I sadly found out there are no voting stickers, but thankfully she doesn’t know she should have this expectation, and we finally left the building.
I feel relieved, a heavy burden lifted.
Especially with the COVID saga, planning when to vote, how to vote, how much of a hazmat suit I should vote in (I ended up in just a mask, for the record) has been on my mind since March. My daughter, completely oblivious to my emotional moment, happily skipped away in pure joy, smiles abound. She was the star of the voting location, so I certainly can’t blame her. And in that moment, I took a break from worrying about her future. When she will understand the English language, in more words than just “yah!” “uh-oh” and “shoes,” I know my husband and I will teach her to be kind, will teach her to listen to other viewpoints and strive to find common ground instead of making sweeping generalizations.
And I have no doubt that this was her first of many trips to the polls.