Back when I was young, idealistic, and pining away for someone to ask me to prom, I was kind of interested in politics. I took an American government course, which I loved, and by the end of the year I vowed that I would always stay informed and get myself to the polls to do my civic duty.

Fast forward eight years. I’m living on the other side of the country, as a minority in a place that in some ways will always feel foreign to me. I am one of 8 million people living in boxes stacked on top of each other as close as they can get, and yet I can go days without talking to anyone outside my family. Since we’ve been here, the governor has resigned in disgrace, his replacement has been only slightly less scandalous, and I know almost nothing about those who are hoping that job becomes theirs today. What I do know sounds more like scandal-mongering than politics (although I’m starting to believe that they are the same thing), and I’m having a hard time convincing myself that it is worth the effort to educate myself enough to feel like I can make a good decision about who to vote for. Or that there are any “good decisions” of who to vote for. On top of that there are so many state and local officials that I am overwhelmed at the thought of even finding out who is supposed to represent me — or who the candidates that want to represent me are.

But these are excuses. I can see Mr. Briscoe shaking his head and clucking at me. I can see that I’ve become the person that, as an 18 year old, I hoped I would never be. I really believed staying informed mattered, that I could make a difference, that knowledge was power and that I could help the system work better by casting my ballot. But today, I don’t feel that way. If I went to the polls today, I would feel like I was doing more harm than good as an uninformed, virtually uninterested person casting a vote simply to appease the teenage version of herself. When I vote I want to mean it.

The Artist and His Family by James Peale image from here

However, I don’t feel like I am totally uninvolved with our country and its future. Whenever I think about fulfilling my civic duty these days, the term “republican motherhood” comes to mind. I can do something to make the country better, and that is to give it some good citizens. And to realize that, these days, I am in the service of my country, and of the world, when I am in the service of my family. Someday I will have the time to read up on the candidates, to know the issues, to understand the needs of the place that I’m in. I may even take part in rallies, canvass neighborhoods, get out the vote. But I just can’t. Not today. There will be a time in my life when I am able to make my voice heard more directly, but right now there are two little boys who need my attention more than the men up in Albany, or Washington, do.

ps A few weeks ago, Heather wrote a post on her blog that expresses many of the feelings that I have about motherhood and my place in the world. It’s worth taking a look at. Thanks Heather.

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