I don’t think of myself as a political person. I know political people – they work in Washington DC, and love to govern. They have been career student government representatives, they believe in the system. My friend Sam is political. He loves arguing, hob-nobbing, and legislating. He’s a rare creature that despite some close calls, has always managed to be a part of the political sphere.
I’m more of an idealist. The government takes taxes and turns them in to opportunities and services for the whole country. I accept this fact and move on. I have given much consideration to hot button issues like abortion, gay rights, our foreign policy, and our defense spending. When the time comes, I will vote upon these policies because I have been researching them, and been considering my options. I am an informed voter, or at least I like to think so. But am I a political person? I don’t believe myself to be.
But if you were to ask my parents, I am very political. At least in their eyes. For you see, my parents were not political for most of their lives. Children of the 60′s and 70′s, they have a deep anti-establishment streak running through their personalities. My mother had to register my father to vote in 2002, when the state of California decided to recall Governor Gray Davis and replace him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. They had not voted in years. They confessed this to me in 2004, when we were discussing the upcoming election. I had always assumed they had voted, being opinionated people, often muttering darkly about taxes. I remembering talking with my father in the garage about the 1996 Clinton-Dole election, and having him explain the whole process, and what all these terms meant. My father liked Bill Clinton, but hates taxes with a passion and therefore believed he might vote for Bob Dole. But, he didn’t vote at all.
When I asked what prompted them to vote, they said:
“Yeah! You’re into the news and all of that, and you kind of woke us up to what was happening by talking about it with your friends. So we got curious, and started paying attention.”
I couldn’t believe that I, a non-political person, inspired my parents, decades old non-voters, to start voting. As it turns out though, my parents had been trying to goad me into political discussions for some time. At the dinner table, what I had taken to be complaining by an older generation who just didn’t understand, my parents had actually been trying to elicit some healthy debate about the state of the world. According to them, getting me to willing talk politics with them was akin to pulling teeth. My parents are assertive, opinionated people. I am opinionated myself, but I choose to avoid conflict when it presents itself, making serious discussions between my parents and I few and far between, at least in terms of politics.
From the few discussions we’ve had, I’ve discovered my parents are a little more conservative than I am, but that is borne out of cautiousness more than anything else. While I am more than willing to throw my vote Obama’s way, they don’t like him. They don’t like John McCain either, although he is now their state senator. “He’s too old!” they say. I don’t ask them to elaborate, because there is no need. I understand that they mean he’s out of touch, ready to die, and not an accurate representation of Americans to foreign countries. “Haven’t we had enough old white men?” is the subtext. But Obama… “I don’t know,” my parents say. They’re worried about his experience. They’re worried things will only spiral further out of control. They do not have an ideal candidate, and they might not vote, which I think is fine. “But then we won’t have the right to bitch, so I think we might have to vote,” says my mother. This is also true.
However, national politics is not their forte. Local politics, city politics, that’s more their style. My parents have always tried to foster community, and put me into a good environment. For me, they sought out the best school in the city. For me, they fostered a friendly neighborhood on our block. For me, they stayed in my home town so I could graduate high school with my friends, despite my neighborhood’s worsening condition. To them, the city they live in was of great importance, and they taught me a great deal about the importance of community. They were always impressed when the local politicians came by to say hello. My mother was especially impressed when the Mayor went door to door in casual clothes, asking people if they were happy with their city government. My mom, who actually had some issues, was too stunned to actually say anything, and said that No, no, everything was fine.
So, when it comes to my political mind, I look to the foundation my parents set. I tuned in with them to watch the local morning news. Eventually we changed stations, because the reporting on the other one had gotten sloppy and low quality. When the time came, my parents encouraged my forays into journalism. They taught me that getting involved was important, perhaps the most important thing one could do. So when asked, “How do your parents politics different from your own?” my answer is convoluted. We have the same fundamentals, but how we apply them is different. But they fostered my differences, so I can only say that I am forever indebted to them for that.