When I turned 18, I was apathetic about politics, and the candidates that ran for presidency. I figured no matter who I was going to vote for, the country was going to stay in the same direction, and it was not going to affect me.
I was a freshman in a very conservative Lutheran college when my first real exposure to presidency race happened. It was fall of 2004. John Kerry ran against George W. Bush. Of course, it being a conservative college; everybody talked about how they were voting for George W. Bush, and how John Kerry was not an ideal candidate for our country. I rolled my eyes. I did not care. I was not going to exercise my right to vote. For as far as I cared, both Kerry and Bush sucked. This was based on absolutely NO research, no discussions, and no following the election coverage. I did not know whether I was a liberal or a conservative or even moderate. I did not know what I really believed in or what ticked me off or what I wanted to see to change in our country.
I hated the ugliness that came with people voting for certain candidate. They trash-talked the opposing party. They put down the candidates. Fights erupted between friends and some went so far to deciding they were no longer friends. I thought to myself how petty all this was to let politics to get in a way of a friendship. Besides I was secure in my little world. I was just starting college, and experiencing my first taste of freedom. I was in my own little bubble. Politics was not going to affect me.
Of course, George W. Bush won. Big whoopie. I shrugged it off and waited for both excitement and disappointment to die down. It died down. I breathed a sigh of relief. The year went by and I decided that the school I was attending was just not for me. I felt suffocated because I was quirky and hippie compared to my much more conservative peers. I decided to transfer to a liberal arts school for the following semester.
Over the years of George W. Bush being in office, I realized I did not like how he was running the country, and complained about it. Upon asking, I admitted that I did not vote because I did not see a point in doing so. Then someone said that I had no right to complain about how the country was being run because I did not exercise my right to vote. Therefore, I had no voice. If I really did not like how the country was being run then I should do my homework and make a sound decision then vote for the next election. I realized that what was said to me was right. I should not have complained if I had done absolutely nothing about it.
In the next 4 years, I grew from my education, personal experiences, and exposure to issues that were ongoing in our country. I realized that I did not fit in with my conservative peers because I was not conservative with my beliefs. I felt it was important to be helping people to have an access to education, health especially women reproductive care, programs to get poor people get back on their feet, and equal human rights for everybody regardless their sexual orientation, race, ethnic, religion, disability, and age. They were very important to me especially as a Deaf young woman.
My values continued to become more concrete when I started dating my husband and saw more of inner working that came with being a teacher. It really opened my eyes to how hard teachers and union workers had worked. I went into a mental health program and saw a high need for people, who were mentally ill and poor, to have access to treatments, medication and programs that they desperately needed. More and more of my dear friends came out, and I realized that they should experience what I had a privilege to experience all along--love without restrain, love without being punished for it, get married, and have same rights as we straight folks have. All this opened my eyes to my own family's work ethics, sexual orientation, and issues that they faced.
I did my homework for the next election. I weighed both sides carefully, read news and followed the election coverage. I discussed and talked with both my conservative and liberal friends in order to understand more about both candidates. I already knew I wanted to vote for Democrat party, but I had to be sure of why I was voting for them. I did not want to vote blind or vote for certain candidate just because of his/her political background or that it was what everybody were doing, and I was following what they were doing.
I ended up voting and felt good. I felt accomplished. If my candidate did not win then at least I spoke up for what I believed in. That was the most important part for me...to have my voice heard. After election was done, I continued to remain vocal about my values and beliefs while respecting some others, who had opposing political values, because by doing so, I was also learning from them. One thing that did not change from my apathetic days was that I still dislike the ugliness that both sides portrayed, and how people harmed each other based on difference of their beliefs. To me, that was not democracy. It was oppression and rudeness right there.
Then I became pregnant with my son. I realized that I wanted to teach my son how to vote wisely, and to do his homework before voting. I wanted him to develop that ability to stand his ground instead of blindly following what others were doing, to feel confident for who he wanted to vote for, and to be able to hear both sides without getting overly judgmental. I wanted him to be able to vote responsibly. Lastly, I wanted to leave the world a better place for Forrest.