I’m not too worried about the debates for this year’s presidential election. Between being a full-time employee at University of Illinois Extension Chicago’s South Side office and a full-time graduate student at Columbia College Chicago, it’s hard to find time for politics.
But when it does creep into my life, I’m reminded that most of my political influence comes from my parents. And having parents on the opposite sides of the fence causes some second guessing about voting.
As I was having a conversation with my dad while he loaded the washing machine with towels, I began asking him questions of why he became a registered voter. My dad told me he registered to vote at the age of 18 and voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988, when he was a candidate in the presidential election and lost to George H.W. Bush. Frankly, my dad votes mainly because he says his voice matters and our founding fathers died fighting for our right to vote.
“It’s your civil right duty as an American,” he says. My dad believes having the right to vote is part of being an American and gives you a choice to make a decision to say what matters to you.
My dad works for United Parcel Service (UPS) and has been there for more than 25 years. He’s always instilled in my older brother and I to make better decisions so we don’t have to work as hard as he does. My grandmother educated my father on the importance of voting and my dad passed along the same tradition to us.
As we sat in the living room on opposite couches from each other while he folded the towels, he said: “It’s better to make a decision than to not make a decision. Even if it’s the wrong decision. It’s a decision that can be corrected.”
My dad’s beliefs of indecisions are results of a lot of “What ifs.” He said this is why the United States is the way it is. Too many what ifs and not enough decisions being made no matter if it’s the wrong decision. “Ignorance can be corrected with adequate information about the subject matter at hand. But stupidity goes on and on until it is corrected,” he said.
So, that’s why he votes even if he realizes he may have to make a correction later.
On the other hand, you have my mother, the soft-spoken nonvoter. She has worked for Greyhound Bus Station for almost a year now and is not a registered voter and doesn’t plan on becoming one. Sitting at the kitchen table watching her as she seasons the chicken wings, she took out the freezer earlier in the day, I asked my mom why she was not a registered voter, she said, “I’ve never been into politics.” She feels that her voice/opinion doesn’t really matter.
She points out when it’s time to elect a president, the electoral college vote determines the president, not the popular vote. My mother believes societies and people with more power will and can put whomever they want in political positions.
As she fried the seasoned chicken wings in the sizzling grease on the stove, she said, “I’m going to get what everyone else gets.” In my mother’s hazel eyes, no matter if she votes or not, she feels and knows the decision has been made for her and the rest of the world.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech called ‘Give Us the Ballot’ at the Lincoln Memorial on May 17, 1957 advocating voting rights for African Americans in the United States. In his speech, Dr. King said: “Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.” The importance of voting is as relevant as it was almost 63 years ago and the country is witnessing that now.
My parents, like many others, have been distracted by the coronavirus. Like many predominantly black communities, my parents are aware of the growing numbers of deaths from this virus. So far, 1,673 deaths have been confirmed in the Cook County area. This worries me about my parents’ health because both are essential workers, which puts them at higher risk even with them taking the precautions of wearing face masks, washing their hands, wearing gloves and using hand sanitizer.
It’s easy to say the coronavirus has been the primary distraction from this year’s political elections. And yet, politicians are the people who decide on how much economic and medical support to distribute among the communities most in need.
So, it is especially important to focus on politics during emergency pandemics like the one we’re in now. Whom we choose to lead us and make the country better is more important than ever.