By the time this article hits the newspaper for which it was originally composed, the 2012 election will be history. I will again be able to answer my telephone without first looking at the caller ID to check for unwanted phone calls from PACs, political parties, celebrity endorsers, and assorted other special interest groups. It’s sad that our political process has been reduced to vitriol and rhetoric supported by no reason, no compassion and only twisted truths. Frankly, no politician, of any ilk, running this year has done anything to earn my respect, and some of them have been downright disgusting. The activities of the PACs and the special interests behind them have been worse—simply unconscionable in almost every case.
When I was a little girl, I remember going to the polls with my mom and dad. Voting was a family affair. We voted at the local volunteer fire department. The voting booths were large boxes. The voter stood behind a curtain and flipped levers to cast votes for the candidate of choice. I remember standing in line with my parents waiting to vote. Voting was something you did because you were a U.S. citizen, and it was your responsibility. It wasn’t a privilege; it was a responsibility.
Those early childhood memories made an impression, and they are the main reason why, every election, when I go to vote, I take my daughter with me. Rarely is voting a family affair for us. I don’t think my husband and I have ever been able to arrange our schedules to be able to go to the polls at the same time. However, my daughter always accompanies one of us.
We do not talk about who we voted for. My daughter isn’t old enough for those kind of political discussions, and I would rather that she learn some basic foundational truths against which she will be able to make value judgments later. Instead, we talk about why we vote and what it means to choose a leader.
We talk about things like what makes a good leader. For instance she gives me an example of a “line leader.” A good line leader makes sure the line gets where it needs to be when it needs to be there, but at the same time a good line leader doesn’t leave anyone behind or let anyone get lost. A good line leader doesn’t bully anyone who may not be able to go very fast. A good line leader also knows the importance of letting some people get ahead of the line, because those people may be the ones who find and blaze the best trail for the rest. A good line leader doesn’t tolerate pushing and shoving either.
Good leaders have other qualities too. They have to tell the truth. They have to admit when they make a mistake. They need to be smart and good at school. They need to be trustworthy. They need to have empathy for and be willing to serve all. And, I think my daughter would add now that they need to be respectful, responsible, safe and kind.
We talk about how lucky we are to live in a place where we can choose a leader. We talk about how the fact that every person gets one vote is an amazing thing—no matter how rich, how smart, how poor you are you get ONE vote, one voice in your government. Everyone gets that one voice, although sometimes people try to make it difficult for others to use their voice. We talk about why that is wrong.
Let’s hope that over the next few years, the leaders that we have elected will show the best qualities of leadership, that they will compromise, sacrifice and not be bought by the highest bidder. Let’s hope that they will be good line leaders, not afraid to blaze new trails, encourage creativity, compromise and sacrifice. Let’s hope they will lead as servants of the constituents they have been elected to represent.
© 2012 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.