I remember being in elementary school when Jimmy Carter was running for President of the United States. Our history classes all held mock elections to help give us a better understanding about the election process. We had mini-debates, campaign posters, candidate background checks, talked about the Constitution and the two-party system, etc. When all the votes were counted…the sixth grade had voted Jimmy Carter in by a landslide.
Now here’s the thing…we were in 6th grade. Do not think—even for a second—that we were making an informed voting decision based on the issues of the day or party politics. In fact, the main reason Jimmy Carter was elected by the sixth graders was because we could identify with him more than we could with Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter was a Southerner from a small town that no one had really ever paid attention to and he came from a family of farmers. He was an underdog in search of better things…and so were many of us.
We totally got the concepts of working parents who started out poor, working hard, having an outspoken mama and at least one relative that (Please, GOD!) we wouldn’t want to see on the TV news. When you threw in the political pundits’ view that here was a man who couldn’t possibly win because he was such an outsider and was outspoken about his Christian beliefs—well, we were all in! This was an election about US. It was a vote on whether or not WE could possibly make it out in the real world.
Many years have passed since the election of cycle of 1976. Unfortunately, I see that there are still a lot of people who haven’t progressed past the surface voting criteria which influenced sixth grade history class…and unfortunately, they’re making personal attacks on anyone who doesn’t see tomorrow’s vote the way they do.
Within the past months I’ve seen vitriolic diatribes all over the media and on many pages of Facebook friends about whom I should vote for and why. I’ve received phone calls actually asking me to verbally commit to vote for certain candidates and others wanting me to say I’d vote for another one. In each case, I must say that I was personally offended by that intrusion. I am neither more nor less of a Christian, a feminist, a racist, a homophobe, open/closed-minded because I choose to vote or not vote the way some of my friends will despite what the FB conversations say or the pundits pontificate. Neither am I less than intelligent or hopelessly provincial if I choose to vote my own conscience instead of someone else’s. In fact, I’d say it was quite the opposite. I will be the same me on Wednesday that I am today.
I could spend the rest of the day telling you who I’m voting for and why, but I won’t. One of the most important things I learned in that 1976 election came not from the school, but from my parents. It was about the important concept of having the right to a private vote. It was stressed in our house that each person of legal age should vote—after they had researched the issues and the candidates, considered the possible outcomes of their vote and prayed. The actual vote, however, was between them and God…and not something anyone else had the right to challenge or belittle.
So, for tomorrow, I urge you to make your choice carefully. Voting is a hard-fought, blood-bought right here in the United States of America and if you’re a citizen of legal age, you should exercise it each and every election. It is your civic duty to do so. Look past the slick ads and the surface appearance each candidate. Certainly, we will have areas of commonality and disparity with each one. Don’t look at just one issue. Dig deeper! Be informed and vote! Our world depends on it.