I honestly don’t remember when I first gained an interest in politics. In a column a few weeks back I candidly shared my interests were pretty typical ‘girly’ in my formative years (i.e.: music and teen heartthrobs).
I do however vaguely recall a few things.
The early days of my education were spent in San Francisco and I still recall a helicopter bringing Vice President Gerald Ford to our school site for a visit. Honestly it was a visit by default. My primary school was condemned due to not being compliant with earthquake safety so we were bussed to Treasure Island. This location of San Francisco was once an active Naval Station, which is how we lucked out on such a prestigious visit.
Political memories from my younger years stem around Jimmy Carter, peanuts, beer (oddly enough), Jelly Beans and a monkey named Bonzo.
I was also a big fan of the once popular television show ‘Family Ties’ starring Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton, so I caught a few political tidbits from him as well. Yes, I recognize to our political ‘passionistas’ these first few paragraphs are perhaps shameful and not a great representation of interest or information from my supposed ‘formative’ years. Politics did not interest me. Remember I was a typical ‘Girly’ (and being said with no disrespect to the smart/informed Girly Type).
I did have a mother, however, who made me aware of the process and the good fortune we had to live in a free country. Most specifically the 19th Amendment ratified on Aug. 18, 1920 that guaranteed all American women the right to vote.
I will save our readers a trip down my personal political memory lane and its progression and simply state: I recently came to realize as an American with a civil obligation to cast a ballot, as a parent I also have an equally large responsibility in educating my children on the basic principles and fundamentals of politics.
This thought in and of itself makes me dizzy and grateful that I have realized it now. Our next major election is just four short years away. My son will then be 12 and as the appointed Alex P. Keaton of our family, political fodder will more likely than not be on his agenda.
Following the most recent election he shared with me he was actually happy that President Obama had been re-elected. This comment struck me a bit off guard and prompted curiosity.
As I engaged in the conversation of why and what had he heard, my son answered both honestly and logically as any eight-year-old would.
“Well, mom I think with President Obama there will be less change. If Romney was elected he might want to change a lot of things. You know, like raise the age from eight years old and bring the booster seat law back.”
Any parent/grandparent or guardian of a child in the six- to eight-year range may have an appreciation for this concern. Returning to the booster seat earlier this year was devastating to my then 80-pound seven-year-old. Clearly that law change has left an impression.
This statement also solidified for this mom that I have some studying to do. Honestly it’s exciting to think of having in depth political talks with my son (and my daughter … in due time). While I am not at all frightened by the topic of the process, political parties, platforms and voting on principle versus party, there are a few areas I will need some help on brushing up on.
The initial confusion I face is the topic of Electoral Vote versus Popular Vote. This system (to this voter) seems a bit antiquated in our current day and age. So I do truly need to brush up on why we have not altered this part of the system, yet have revamped other parts.
The topic however that I struggle with the most is the ugly manner in which politics has turned.
We teach our children to play fair, win graciously and be respectful of their opponent. Then they grow up and come to learn not everyone still applies the same rule book. More specifically the world of politics has thrown the rule book out altogether.
As a mother and a citizen this is a troubling thought, not to mention reality. The person we are electing, the person of power is more than a critical decision maker. The President of the United States is the ‘chief in charge.’ He or she is the Leader of our Country. So, to think of the mud slinging and trash talking which happens prior to the polls makes me question: Does the best person ever win?
Sadly, I have no answer to this question which troubles me most. Gone are the days of ‘fair play’ and winning graciously. For lack of better reasoning and quite generally speaking much of our election system has turned into a social media rat race only rivaled by an American Idol type mentality as some approach the polls.
This brings to mind a quote by Thomas Paine, “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”
My hope is that this tide of disrespect will in time turn and this quote will not apply. Each election it seems to get worse. As I listen to my friends and family discuss this very topic, I know it’s a troubling concern. Time will indeed tell.
In the meantime, I will apply my due diligence and do my best at informing and educating my duo. My son’s first election, after all is just three Presidential terms away. I better get to studying.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.