The year I was born was a presidential election year. I don’t remember it. I was only two and half months old.
The first presidential election after I was finally old enough to vote came during my junior year in college. I was 20. I was in school two hours away from home but I didn’t want anything to do with an absentee ballot. I wanted my first vote for an American president to be cast is person. I wanted the experience of being at the polls on Election Day. I wanted to step behind the curtain and put my hands on the lever (that’s the way it was done way back then).
I had only early classes that day, so I figured I could leave after the last one, make the two hour trip and be there in time to cast my vote. I could get up early the next morning and make it back to school before my next class. That was pushing it, but I thought it was worth all the effort.
Too bad that on the way there my car broke down on I-95 about an hour from home. Thankfully, it was near an open weigh station. A state trooper there was very kind and let me wait inside for my mom and dad to come and get me. It was, of course, before the days of cell phones but, again, thankfully there was a pay phone in the weigh station. It took a couple of hours for my parents to coordinate their vehicles and work schedules and make it down to where I was waiting. Then it took some time for my dad to make a few mechanical adjustments to my car to get it at least cranked again. And then another hour to get home.
Needless to say, I did not get to vote that year.
As disappointing as that year was, it was not nearly as traumatic as the presidential election campaign that took place when I was in the third grade. It was a school-wide event. All six grade levels at the elementary school I attended were involved. On a set day, everyone had the same assignment. Use your white kraft paper and the red and blue crayons to make paper hats, buttons, signs, and whatever else you could think of to campaign for the presidential candidate of your choice. Then, when it was time to go to the cafeteria for lunch, we were to wear our hats and buttons and carry our signs. Everyone one in the entire school came to the cafeteria donning self-made campaign gear.
It all sounds like fun and even educational. I think they still do stuff like that in elementary schools today. But I was traumatized. The problem was that before I could make any kind of campaign hat, I had to choose a candidate. I had no idea which candidate to select. Even though I was only 8 years old (and two and half months), I knew my choice would only be a guess because I didn’t really know anything about either of the candidates. It bothered me that I felt forced into making a personal commitment but was clueless about exactly what it was that I was committing too. I felt like I was taking a pop quiz and didn’t know any of the answers. I felt like I, personally, was about to fail. Did I mention that I was only 8 years old?
At the encouragement of my teacher, I walked around our classroom as the campaign collaterals were being created and studied what others were doing and which candidate they had selected. I finally just picked the candidate that already had his name on the most hats in my classroom. I made my own hat, hurriedly by that point because I spent too much time deliberating my choice, and I wore it to the cafeteria that day but I was never comfortable in it. I followed the crowd instead of my own convictions. I did that because I didn’t have any personal convictions yet.
Turns out my guy lost the real election. Big time.
Every four years when we get ready to elect a president I think about that day in the cafeteria. It’s one of those memories that just won’t go away. I still don’t want to ever be in that position again. The position of not being well-informed enough to make a firm commitment and a wise choice.
This year, thanks to life and times in this media driven age, I have way more information than I need to make a qualified choice. Thank goodness. I live within walking distance of my voting precinct polling place. I’m going early so I won’t miss work. And I’m not going to the cafeteria to eat until AFTER I vote.
See you at the polls.
"Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:14-15