Shania and I stand out in a line for two hours to see Michelle Obama; it’s yet another hot and sultry day in Florida. One of the volunteers helps me change my address with a new voter registration ID; button and t-shirt sellers abound. We buy a “Michelle Rocks” button! Every few minutes, a volunteer reminds us of the “airport style” security to get into the auditorium. Bottled water in hand, we wiggle along a snake queue, experiencing this magic of our first- ever, grassroots political rally.
I want my seven-year-old to experience this political process; be aware of her rights and exercise these rights diligently. I want her to be involved in civil society. As a child, growing up in a non-secular, non-democratic society – I never enjoyed such a privilege. As a parent I try to enhance their curiosity and respect of the political process.
Someone texts me, “Do you even like the Obamas?” I am not sure how to answer that question. I don’t think it’s any longer a choice of whether I like them or not.
I am a registered “independent” voter. The label that I identify the most with, is what the Pew Center names, the New Prosperity Independants – The Purple Voter! According to some polls 11% of the US voters are in this category. We don’t align with the traditional views of conservatives or liberals. Typically, we like economic conservatism with social liberties held intact. However, Liberals (12% ) or Conservatives (10%) tend to dominate the agenda. Because, they tend to scream their opinions the loudest.
This 2012 election season, I am left without a choice.
I don’t like the heavy handed economic policies of the Democratic party – this process of economic interference and engineering makes me cringe. All this, “I know how to solve all your economic challenges”, or, “I will take care of you, even if you choose never to work” upsets me.
However, I cringe even harder, when I hear the shrill rhetoric of the right-wing fundamentalists of the Republican party. They are against the woman’s right to chose – they don’t want to find a way to solve the immigration debacle – they don’t want to talk about banning assault weapons – they want to cut educational programs and make a big deal opposing gay marriage! I wonder when Jeb Bush or Colin Powell will get a say in anything.
I have two daughters; I cannot let their freedoms be overtaken by a group of xenophobic bigots. My vote is no longer for my own future; it’s for my daughters’ future. I look at the party that is most likely to protect their rights – promote compensation parity – promote more of a “salad bowl” policy. I yearn for a structure that is informed, empathetic; an idiotic senatorial candidate who believes that women can shut down their body during rape – seriously!?
While economic freedom is vitally important, I have always believed that what makes the US the freest of nation – the most creative, entrepreneurial and liberal in thinking – are its social freedoms. Stodgy Europhiles may find the US thinking very laissez faire or simply not sophisticated enough – but this freedom to choose – to create – to lead – to pray (or not) – to change, is what’s most attractive of the American fabric.
I want that fabric of our flag, protected forever – for my daughters.
We take our stand in the theatre waiting for the First Lady to arrive. There’s lots of political rhetoric in the air – lot’s of heavy talk about this or that. Someone hands Shania a political placard; she takes one and asks for a second one for her teacher. We listen to Mrs. Obama, as if she is a rock star. Shania doesn’t understand much of what she is saying; but I notice, she is smiling and listening. I proudly look at Shania as she holds up her placard.
Today, she may not understand the substance of the conversation underway. But she has found a new way to express herself – connect herself – with the greatest democracy in the world.
Next, I want to take her to a Republican rally. Just like anything else, the most important thing for Shania is to learn that, she has a choice.