I'm missing my father today. It's election day in California and I'm planning to take my kids to the polls, just like my Popi used to. It's the first time that they'll be old enough to (maybe) remember what it's like.
I'll tell my kids that I'm taking them to the polls like my dad used to take me. I'll tell them how their papi grew up in the shadow of Uruguay's dictatorship, where it wasn't safe to talk about politics or to vote for many years. I'll tell them how I used to work the polls in San Diego County before they were born. I'll tell them about the first time I was old enough to vote. And I'll tell them why this photo in the LA Times gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears as a college sophomore in 1994:
|People queued up to vote in the first free elections in South Africa, 1994. Most got in line well before sunrise.|
I'm hoping that today's visit to the polls creates a habit and a sense of responsibility. For now, it is an opportunity to talk about raising one's voice in discussions, and participating in making decisions that affect them.
I owe my sense of civic duty to my parents, who spoke of current events and geopolitics every night at dinner. They worked the polls for years in my hometown after retiring. They were also die-hard conservatives who encouraged me to find my own political voice, even though it was diametrically opposed to theirs.
I want the same legacy for my kids and hope that voting and a passion for debate and politics carry on in the next generation the way they have for me. I'm pretty confident that my family stories, along with those of their father, will impress upon them the privilege and responsibility of being informed voters.
So when I step into the booth, clutching my voter guide and asking my kids to be respectful of people around us, this maudlin politico will probably have dewy eyes and her heart in her throat. I'll be thinking of my father, who would've found the lack of civility in this year's elections particularly disturbing. I'm certain that my Popi would've been proud of me for carrying on the family tradition and teaching my kids that democracy means showing up and exercising one of our most precious liberties -- the right to vote.