This is a re-post.
My first voting experience was motivated by pizza.
My old man wasn’t into quality time with us, other than for summer vacations; he went early to his shop and came home late. He was a creature of habit, always wore a suit and hat to work, ordered his lunch from the same nearby restaurant. If there were any passions in his humdrum world I certainly wasn’t a witness to them.
Tuesday, November 4, 1980 was an unusual day in the Household (*wink). That day the daily routine was broken, there was a sense of urgency suspended in the air—it was palpable and thick as lemon meringue pie filling. That morning the old man told me to come home from school, put on some nice clothes and wear a tie and to meet him at the shop, we were to “hang” that evening.
I was inconsolable, at the thought of missing my after school shows but there was the promise of something rare as a unicorn—an early week pizza dinner! (Something reserved for the weekends) All day long adults were abuzz with anticipation. They seemed to be bothered about something to do with a bad actor and the President or maybe it was that the President was a bad actor; I couldn’t care less, I was about to land some pizza and root beer—hell fucking yeah!
I got home and followed the old man’s instructions. I felt like a total dork having to wear a tie to go out to eat dinner. It took me a little longer to get ready than it normally would when I got home. No sooner than I got home my asshat older brother began to tease me about my date night (unknown to me at the time he had a similar evening with the old man years before) with the old man, so we got in a fight.
Once in the shop I had to deal with old people complaining about taxes, the issues and a million other things I knew nothing about nor cared for. It was clear from the reverberations in the room that someone bad may become president. Dad closed the shop about three hours earlier than normal, and began some speech about civil obligations. Glazed eyes and nearly catatonic, some of what he said sounded right and must have taken root in my brain that day.
At our polling station dad stood tall in that gymnasium; for him, besides electing his candidate, it was the experience that mattered. It was about a Democratic continuity from the first election to now. To him elections were Open to All Americans.
I didn’t know it then but I was witness to something special—that day I saw the peaceful transition in government, from one party to another, it’s democracy at it’s finest. Too many people around the world still feel the boots of autocrats at their throats; totalitarian regimes will stomp down democratic elections like vermin. The past few years we have seen people living in oppressed nations rise up and fight for something many Americans take for granted.
Things have changed, the old man is long gone, I no longer love pizza in fact I detest it. The old shop has become many things over the years; I no longer get into fistfights with my older brother though he’s still an asshat, childhood preoccupation’s and responsibilities have morphed into the adult super-sized versions. What hasn’t changed is the proud feeling I get when I vote. It won’t be marred by ideology whether my choice for President has or doesn’t have a shot at the White House. The issues are still the issues and ironically mine to worry about, taxes must still be paid but every four years citizens of the US have a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves. Who knows? Maybe this year I will wear a dorky tie, as I stand proud and vote; maybe I’ll take my wife for some (I shudder) pizza but beyond anything the evening will be about continuity, it will about being an American.