This was the first election day since Brynna was born that she did not accompany me into the voting booth. Since she's in public school now, and our schools are often polling places, school is out on election day. So, she spent last night with her NiNi so she could sleep in a bit. And I got up and went early with Maren in tow.
I don't really think she missed it, but I sure did.
Over the past couple of years, I have been talking to Brynna before and after voting about the importance of voting, how it works, why we do it, what we owe to the national discourse... And while she's not super-excited about these conversations, she does participate and seem a little interested.
We've had a different kind of conversation this year. It started in May, as we were gearing up for the primaries and we put out our first ever yard sign. It's been about campaigning. Kentucky has had a rather nasty year, especially in the Senatorial race. And we've had to talk about negative campaigning, direct mail, road signs, radio and TV commercials and what kind of person you want representing you, and, quite unfortunately, what you do when you can't honestly support either candidate.
And Maren didn't seem to want to talk about any of that. She was quite interested in the curtain and the little twirly bit on the voting machine.
But it really got me thinking about why I take my kids to the polls. I never went when I was a kid, so it's not something that was ingrained in me. My mom and my grandparents would all vote, but they would go at different times so that no one had to take me.
I take my kids to vote with me because I want them to understand something that I feel very strongly about: rights versus responsibility. People in this nation (and perhaps others) regard voting as a right. A privilege. It's not that they don't understand the importance, it's that they see it the same as the right to free speech. "I can say crazy things, but I don't have to." Most Americans, contrary to popular belief, see voting as incredibly important and will defend the "right" of every American to vote.
I don't see it that way. I see it as a responsibility. We, supposedly, have a government for the people, of the people, by the people. That means that it's our job to get involved. Frankly, voting is the smallest possible piece of that puzzle. It's our responsibility to get involved with our representatives, write letters, send emails, make phone calls, take surveys. The voting is just the beginning.
Tonight, we were watching some of the reporting and someone said something about 18-29 year olds still supporting the President and someone else quipped, "Yeah, but they don't vote." And I don't care which side of the aisle you are sitting on, that's not okay. It's not okay that there is an entire generation who believes that voting is just a right they don't have to exercise. And it's not okay that the older generations see that generation as just okay to discount completely.
That's why I talk to Brynna about political commercials and that's why I take the kids to vote every year. I hope that I can manage to raise kids who are politically aware and involved, but not obnoxious. That's the goal.