When I think about living in America, I think of a melting pot, a land of opportunity, starting over, making your own life and living it with convictions; not settling, fighting for what is right, equality, and freedom.
Election seasons always give us a time to think about what is important to us as individuals. What ideas light the fires beneath us? What do we think is good for the country? Or more (or less) importantly, what is good for us as individuals?
I grew up in a house of liberals, though I never knew until I got older (though my grandparents were conservative). I remember when I heard on the news as a teenager about some law regarding abortion, and how outraged I was that it was legal for someone to tell me what I could and could not do with my body! I had never talked politics with my parents and never knew who they liked, but that night I learned what fired me up and what fired my mom up as well.
In government class my senior year of high school, our class was polarized as Democrats and Republicans. We had debates and often argued about our views. That was the first time I realized I was a true liberal. I had a political identity! It was exciting and frustrating at the same time, because I realized people did not think like I did about everything that mattered most to me.
I remember in my first election how shell shocked I was that Bush won reelection. How could people not get as fired up as I got about the issues that mattered to me?! How could women vote for a party that wants to decide their rights for them? How could it be acceptable for gay people to be treated as unequals in parts of their life? I was in a funk for days and weeks after that 2004 election.
As the years have gone on, I have come to understand more about each of the sides. I have found that I am actually moderate- fiscally conservative but socially liberal (and now leaning libertarian)- and that the political process and role of the President is so much more complicated than who wins the elections. I have conflicting feelings about who wins (no candidate is perfect), how campaigns are run (can't we use all this money for the greater good instead of flying candidates all over the county and running a million political ads?!) and the limits of the two party system (hello Gary Johnson!).
I also hate the nastiness. The point of an election is for people's voice to be heard, not to hate and yell at differing opinions. The name calling, the social media rants- that is never ok. People have their reasons to vote a certain way- it is what is important to THEM. It is part of their freedom of speech. That it may differ from your opinion does not warrant nastiness or hatred. It should create a forum where we can discuss and evaluate our opinions. I am happy to talk politics with someone, but I also know that what they say will not change what is important in my heart.
When I go into that voting booth, my heart is decided by the candidate or party that supports the rights of all his/her people. The one that does not tell me what I can or cannot do as a woman. The one who agrees that all people should be treated as equal- no matter sex, sexual orientation, social class, or country of origin. To me, social issues are the cornerstone of my soul. Equality, equal opportunity, and personal choice are the most important parts of what I take as being an American. You may call that foolish or not agree with me, but it is what matters most to me.
The two party system is outdated. But while the Democratic party is not perfect by any means, I fully believe that America has turned a corner and until the Republicans can embrace a more socially moderate platform and stop ignoring what is becoming a majority of the population, they will keep losing with their old ideals. The country old-school "white majority" is dwindling (hello, Latino immigrants!) and pretending it's not gets the party no where. Just come look at the students at my school and tell me they deserve less rights and opportunities because their parents decided to come to America for a better life.
And as my friend said- "Make no mistake. Change is a motherfucker when you run from it."