The excitement is building. The atmosphere is so charged with it, that it’s palpable. Change is coming. The entire landscape of the world changes when the American people elect a new president. “I voted,” the sticker reads. What does it mean? I did my part, exercised my right? It’s so much more than that. Casting your ballot is sacrosanct. Once that act is completed, you have a front row seat to history.
Waking up the day after Election Day as a kid was magical. The headlines shouted the outcome to the world. And each time, our history had changed. It starts when we’re young, or it should. I remember hearing classmates talking excitedly in grade school, “If Jimmy Carter gets elected, we’re going to have to go to school on Saturdays!” No, we didn’t know what we were talking about, but we were talking about it, feeling the excitement.
At young ages, our kids got caught up in the excitement, swept away with us. In 1992, Lyle and I got a sitter for our five kiddos, ages two (twins), three, five, and six. We waited in one of the many long lines, for what seemed like an eternity, at West Acres mall and cast our votes. I took a deep breath, eyes wide, heart beating a little bit faster, “Now we wait and see!” By the time we got home, they were calling the election on every television channel. Wait, what? Technology had changed, and the process with it. Just like that, it was done. Maggie, our six-year-old said, “I wanted George Bush to win. He’s like a grandpa, and I love Barbra Bush!” She and Serrah, age five, both cried. As we consoled them, I couldn’t help but smile inside. Our girls were catching it. They were aware. It mattered to them. Of course, it was second hand. But that’s the point. We had shown them that it matters.
As the kids grew, we continued to vote, watch, and wait… history, every time. When they came of age, they also went to the poles, voted, participated, got the sticker, and sat front row with us as history unfolded again. Even Emily, our daughter with Down’s, knew something of great importance was happening. After watching the republican national convention in 2004, she stood out on our deck proclaiming, “We are proud! We are Americans!”
I wanted our kids to be free thinkers and proudly watched them develop their own thoughts, opinions, and ideals. We don’t all vote the same. We don’t all espouse the same beliefs. That is a beautiful thing to me. We discuss, we debate, and we respect each other’s opinions and ideas, for the most part. My son Max asked me last week, “Are you up on the measures?” Touched and amused, I responded, “Yup. I’m all set to vote!” But he wasn’t done there, “Please just tell me you’re not voting for Donald Trump. Mom really, promise me you’re not voting for him.” In September, we watched the first presidential debate together. I said, “OK, Maxie. I’m watching the debate. You watching with me?” He didn’t hesitate, “Of course I am!” I chuckled, “We can keep it friendly, right?” “I can if you can, Ma,” he grinned at me. “Alright then. Let the shitshow begin!”
After all of the controversy, all of the debate, the jokes, the SNL skits, once all of the passion of the candidates and the American people is spent, there will be a new president. And, when you strip away the politics, the opinions, the anger, the lamentations, even the excitement, when you get to the core of it all, that’s where the beauty of it is found. At the core of it all, that is where we find our heritage, the foundation of our country, the blood that has been shed to protect and defend our constitution and our freedom.
I know I’ve made mention of it before, however Theodore Roosevelt spoke such eloquent truth. The importance that it bears in this moment compels me repeat it–
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So, study the measures and the candidates. Think freely. Vote. Get your sticker. Appreciate what it all means. Participate in history. Watch the returns with your families. Experience the joy. Remember that the world will not end, nor will there ever be utopia based on the outcome of an election. I accept that. There will be no outrage in me, only the magic of waking up on Wednesday morning, knowing that the history of the world has changed. The new president will by MY president. I won’t talk of moving to a different country if I don’t like the outcome. Although, I did take a Facebook quiz (Yes, it’s ridiculous. Act like you never have!), and it was suggested that if I were to move, Switzerland should be my new home. Me? An expat yodeling from the Alps? I’m perfectly content, regardless of the outcome of any election, to be an American. I still find the joy. I still believe.