Dad, who are you voting for?
I have heard this question more times than I have ever cared to answer it out loud. This will be the fourth presidential election cycle that I’ve had at least one child who was old enough to ask this question. As a parent I actually have enjoyed the tough questions. From the time my oldest was born I always looked forward to having deep philosophical discussions with my children. I’ve waited for the day I could answer questions like, ‘Where do go when we die?’ I’ve been excited to have these discussions because, in the end my answer is not the one that matters.
I was in the eighth grade during the election of 1988. It was George H.W. Bush for the Republicans versus Democratic challenger, Michael Dukakis. My social studies teacher, Mr. Flanagan, was very excited to use the election for the first quarter of the school year as a catalyst to further understanding the U.S. government and how the system worked. Roughly a month after school started he gave us an assignment where we were to interview our parents/caregivers, find out who they were voting for and why. We were then going to do some research on the hot button topics of that election and decide for ourselves who we would vote for, if old enough. I went home and asked my mother who she was voting for. For various, well thought out reasons that she was happy to explain, she was voting for Bush. My parents had recently separated but when I finally did get around to asking my father, he too stated he was voting for Bush. (Mostly because he believed he had success in the real estate world under Reagan and hoped for four more years of whatever that looked like.) In the dark ages before the internet finding out what a candidate believed about certain issues meant actually doing some research. You couldn’t just “Google it” and cross your fingers for a reputable news site. I scoured every newspaper and magazine I could find, watched the nightly news, even tried to get more info from various adults in my life. (Specifically my maternal grandmother who lived and breathed politics like she got paid for it.) I finally came to the conclusion…that I wouldn’t vote for either of these candidates if allowed to.
So I wrote down how I felt about both candidates, handed in my assignment and moved on to the next task I had to accomplish. The next day after class Mr. Flanagan pulled me aside. I wasn’t sure why but he was wearing an ear-to-ear grin so I knew it couldn’t be that bad. He handed my assignment back to me and said, “McCabe, you are the first student I’ve ever had who not only would vote differently from their parents, but would probably vote third party.” With that he chuckled and stepped out into the hall. You see, my parents in those weeks had given me a gift. It was the gift of critical thought. My mother (and grandmother) taught me to believe in my convictions, but always be open and respectful to what other people had to say no matter how much you disagreed with it. My father, solely due to his absence and nothing else, taught me that life’s “right” answers are sometimes hard to find, and even more importantly – sometimes you never really get an answer to your questions at all.
These are hard lessons for most adults to deal with, let alone kids who are looking for guidance from the people they trust the most. But who I’m voting for, or what I believe the afterlife looks like, or what I think about the meaning of life in general isn’t nearly as important to me as allowing my children to think critically and openly about such huge questions, and come to terms with them on their own and in their own time. It’s more important to me that my children respect the opinions of others and be compassionate human beings than what little box I’m going to color in at the local high school on a Tuesday in November. Oh, I can get fired up about certain societal issues. I am not completely devoid of strongly held opinions. In the midst of a recent dinnertime diatribe my 10-year old turned to the rest of the family and bluntly asked, “Which one of you got dad started on politics? I thought we weren’t going to get him started.” Certainly those opinions have rubbed off on my children in some way, shape, or form. But they also know that in the end their opinions on politics, social issues, etc. are their own and they have every right to form them any way they want. (Except football. They will be Philadelphia Eagles fans and that’s final.) In all seriousness though, all we ask from our kids is to be kind, caring, understanding, loving people who add positivity back into the world. When the time comes if they can find a political candidate or a dozen in their lifetime that embodies their core ideals then good for them. Vote away!
Dad, who are you voting for…
As always with these articles we try to tie a metal song back into it that fits the theme. For this one we’ll get a little crusty and give you this anthem by UK crust punk legends Discharge…