Waking up Tuesday morning, my body was plagued with the familiar adrenaline of Christmas morning. My subconscious knew it was Super Tuesday before my mind could even recognize the Google Calendar notification. My inexperience with voting not only gave me the anxiety of forgetting to fill out the back page again, but also an excitement that led to me wearing my “I Voted” sticker proudly for the remainder of the day.
Voting this past Tuesday was the first time I got to cast my ballot in the presidential ring. My gratitude for my country filled me with pleasure, yet mixed my conscience with the guilt of knowing the many obstacles some Americans face when trying to vote. My emotional dilemma followed me around like a cloud all day.
The day that the Democratic candidate to face off with the Republican incumbent is decided, a fair share of nail-biting, guilt-filled, and awkward moments are bound to happen. Having to explain who I voted for to my grandpa is at the top list of things I dread doing every year. Not because I am ashamed of my voting record, but because I understand his reasoning just as well as mine. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you and the people you care for don’t always see eye to eye. Thankfully, our politically charged conversations end in a “Samantha, your political views have absolutely nothing to do with how much I love you.”
A part of me has always known that our inability to agree on an effective health-care plan wouldn’t change my standing on his “Favorite Granddaughter Ranking." Rest assured, I’m still #1. This discrepancy is not uncommon between family members and friends alike, whether the people in your life are die-hard news consumers or indifferent bench-warmers only showing up for the presidential polls. I’ve found it difficult to separate politics and relationships.
In the eighth grade when I self-identified as a “Social Justice Warrior," I never would have imagined talking to, let alone associating with anyone, who did not share my exact beliefs. Looking back at my middle school ignorance and examining all that I’ve learned from people and beliefs almost opposite of my own, I am so grateful that instead of blocking Twitter accounts and muting keyword phrases of things I didn’t believe in. I welcomed diverse ideas and learned from them.
There is a certain level of privilege that comes with being able to express indifference in politics and apathy towards policy change. This attitude and lack of interest in how our lives are governed may not affect your day to day life, but other people feel those changes more directly. Being uninterested in politics is one thing – they are corrupt and messy and so incredibly hard to follow if you didn’t do Model UN or Youth in Government in high school. Even doubting whether or not your one vote in the sea of millions will make any difference whatsoever is something I’ve driven myself to. But if there is no hope in our ability to change what we don’t like, there is no hope for anything.
Looking past the romanticism of my civic duty and the empowerment it has left me with, my optimism has been tainted with the, well, politics of it all. I am not a pacifist nor am I one to ignore the plain truth that we, as a nation, will never all agree on everything. Do we all share the same belief systems and values? No, no we do not. Do we agree on the best ways to improve our nation? Absolutely not. Do we have people within and outside our government that still fight for these ideals? It would be defeatist to think otherwise. My grandpa’s devotion to hearing me nag about the newest political dispute reminds me of my devotion to making sure I had at least an hour in between my activities for the day to vote: “Of course, I would stop the tractor for you.” No matter your political views, of course, I would wait in line to vote for you. No matter how hard the decision was.
Elections should be about voting for who you want to see represent your issues and solutions you want to be implemented. My child-like wonder and naive nature towards our voting system sometimes amazes me as I am reminded that it’s never just that easy when it comes to politics. Learning to accept that where we are is not where I want to be, while still remaining hopeful for the future, has been a teeter-totter ride throughout my adolescent path to what it means to grow with a country. Being given the power of “choice," it can be overwhelming. Don’t let this power swallow you whole. Let it empower you.