Politics. That one word feels so heavy. It’s an ugly word, an interesting word, a controversial word and an exciting word. But it’s more than just a word, isn’t it? Sometimes its an entire way of thinking, a way of life. Yet still sometimes, just a word.
I learned nothing about politics until I was a young adult. In fact, I voted for President the first time I was old enough to, and now I don’t even remember who I voted for. I was clueless. So I spent some time in my early 20s learning from the life I knew around me. Growing up with a small business owner father and in a little town where small businesses were all around, I always had value for that way of life – still do. These people, including my dad, worked hard to make their businesses stay alive. They believed in capitalism, self sufficiency and reaping the rewards that you create for yourself. So as I was learning about, well, all things adult, I began listening to and watching shows that spoke of political things. Because of the small business world I grew up in, I was drawn to that sort of chat, which happens to mostly come from conservative chatters. I felt intrigued at first. I listened and watched often, and before long, I was involved. It felt emotional and deep and meaningful and important – very important. Those guys are good at their jobs. They can get your blood boiling faster than actual water boils, for sure. And they can also make you feel calm and happy and peaceful in your decisions. What an amazing force politics can be. I was an impressionable young woman trying to learn anything and everything I could.
As you may have already guessed, I voted Republican the majority of the time for many years. But as time went on things started to shift in my mind gradually. I began thinking deeply about religion and the meaning of life and the possibility of having children. I started to learn that the Republicans I had voted for in the past were about more than just hard-working small business owners and capitalism. They also claimed to support Christianity and what they refer to as “traditional family values”. I found myself smack dab in the middle of what is mostly referred to as, the real world. I thought, Wait. So, does that mean they don’t want any of my gay friends to be able to marry or have children? My following of politics was giving this 20-something naive girl a reality check. Yes. I think that’s exactly what they mean. The thought of that made me feel all sorts of things, but mostly sad. I was, first and foremost, sad for my friends that weren’t being given the same opportunities that I was. And I was also sad for the people that didn’t support my friends having those opportunities. I know it seems weird that I would feel sad for the latter, but I did. How sad that they don’t get to experience life the way I do, with an open mind and an open heart. What is that like? You see, although I grew up in that little town filled with small businesses, which would typically be stereotyped as generally preferring “traditional family values”, my parents never told me to think any certain way about someone being gay. In fact, there wasn’t an openly gay person in my childhood at all (except RuPaul, of course – You better work). So while I hadn’t been really educated on the topic as a kiddo, I also wasn’t told to think poorly of someone being gay. I’m lucky. That’s not the case with everyone.
As I struggled with these new realizations of politics, I continued to feel deeply emotional about certain topics, yet conflicted about others. One day I found myself in a Facebook debate with a stranger 10 years younger than me about, you guessed it, politics. It was crazy. I’m a nice person, for God’s sake. I don’t like to fight with people. I couldn’t handle the stress, so I backed off, stopped talking about politics on social media and decided to focus on family. I stopped listening to talk radio. I stopped watching cable news. I basically avoided politics any way I could. This comes at a cost, of course, because it meant being out of touch with the happenings of the country and the world. Avoiding news (except The Today Show, but it has a lot of fluff, so I allowed it) was like avoiding an entire universe. You should have seen the look on my family’s face when I said, “Now what’s that whole Benghazi thing about?” Not only have I been under a motherhood rock for the past 5 years, but I have also watched very minimal news since 2011. Some may call it irresponsible, and maybe it was. But I’ll tell you something else it was – peaceful. So. Damn. Peaceful.
So, what did I do for 5 years? I lived. I had 2 babies, moved 3 times (1 of those being a cross-country move), became a runner, traveled the country, drank wine with my husband, spent quality time with my family, wrote for my parenting blog (shameless plug – KindKiddo.com) and started my own business. Wanna know what I didn’t do? I didn’t argue with a single person about politics. I didn’t feel strong negative feelings toward any single politician. And I didn’t let my mind close on any topic as a result of something someone else said. I literally had a political epiphany. I saw the light. And as much as I would love to force everyone else to have these same feelings, I know that I can’t.
For the first time in my life there is an upcoming Presidential Election, and I genuinely considered both primary candidates. I didn’t just tell myself to consider them both. I really and truly did. I knew I had to walk the walk and be as fair as I possibly could. And although I feel strongly about a few politically charged topics, it doesn’t mean that the folks on the other side of those topics are all assholes (some of them are, but not all of them – ha!). It just means that their life experiences have led them down the path that they’re on. And if their destination seems wrong to me, instead of judging them or arguing with them on Facebook, I choose peace.
So, what’s a voter like myself to do? I support theories from both sides of the aisle. I used to basically keep score. I chose the side that I agreed with on more topics, overall. But after my epiphany, I began to ask myself, How do I choose now? And you know, I think I’ve finally figured it out. This time I’m letting my heart choose, even if that means not keeping score. My heart led me to my beautiful husband and to my precious children. And I think, or at least I hope, that it will lead me and all of us to a better tomorrow; to a country where my children can be themselves and be free and be happy.