(This is an off topic, but hopefully interesting, post!)
The first time I voted was in the 2000 election. I am quite ashamed to admit I didn't even know it was election day. I had graduated high school the previous June and met my soon-to-be husband that summer. I was pretty young and, well, pretty stupid. I mean, I hadn't even discovered NPR yet. I guess the worst part of it all was that I didn't even know who the candidates were.
It was a warm fall day, the prettiest kind of fall day with brightly colored leaves filtering the sunshine. My older brother, who had just returned from his mission and was in a couple classes with me at USU, let me know it was election day and threw me on the back of his motorcycle (he always let me wear the helmet; so chivalrous!) and drove me to our polling place--which turned out to be my old elementary school. The old ladies working the joint were overjoyed to see a first time voter and pointed me toward the booths with huge grins. I hurriedly asked my brother what to do. "Just mark the Republican box," he called out, "it's just one vote." And then he laughed. I think he voted for Ralph Nader.
When I exited the booth the old ladies proudly stuck an "I voted" sticker to me and showed me out the door. I took the sticker off and wondered if its declaration was true. Had I really voted? Did I make my voice heard? Or did I just waste a very large piece of paper?
Those questions brought me back to one of my earliest memories. I think it was the night George H. W. Bush was inaugurated. All I really remember was that it was extremely boring political thing and I thought it was SO strange that my parents were SO interested. At some point in the ceremony an American flag was raised and my parents stood and, with the hands over their hearts, recited the Pledge of Allegiance with everyone on TV. Now, to my six-year-old mind, this was patently uncool and I laughed as derisively as I could. My father turned a stern eye on me and told me to stand up. When I protested that I didn't know the Pledge both he and my mother stared at me. It took me a moment to register what their expression meant. The Pledge was practically over when I realized they were staring because they were appalled. They were disappointed. I stood up at the end but didn't know the words. I felt irredeemably empty.
That's how I felt that first Tuesday in November of 2000.
Of course, that election was a ridiculous one to learn on and what with getting married in the following year and then finishing my bachelor's the year after, somehow, becoming educated about politics fell lower and lower on my list. Don't get me wrong--I had tried. After September 11, 2001 you couldn't be American and not have some political leanings. We were in Iraq chasing down Saddam Hussein--who, I'm pretty sure, one of my seminary teachers listed as an Anti-Christ. So I listened to NPR and the BBC for hours everyday. I read the newspaper and The Atlantic. I even watched a couple State of the Union addresses. I found myself really liking Colin Powell and even liking the dude I'd voted for: George W. Bush.
Four years flew by and it was time to vote again. This time I at least knew the candidates names. But I didn't feel like I knew much more than that. Despite all the things I'd heard and read I still didn't understand the issues. I'd had my first baby and was wrapped up in the PPD and trying to make a new home in a new state. As I waited in line to vote in the 2004 election I realized I still had no clue what I was doing. I ended up voting for W because I liked how he quoted scripture and that he prayed every day and went running. They were weak but at least the second time I had reasons.
Since then I've added US News and World Report and Newsweek to my magazine subscriptions. I check the BBC online and talk politics with pretty much everyone and try to listen to their points of view. The West Wing and The McLaughlin Group are my favorite TV shows. I even watched ALL the debates, including the VP one (and the Saturday Night Live versions! What? A girl's gotta get some fun in somewhere). Here's the thing, though: I still don't know! I don't know who I'm going to vote for. I don't know what half the stuff on the ballot is about. I still don't know enough and I'm beginning to think I may never. It makes me want to give up.
The last two times I voted left me with regret and I don't want to feel that way again. So, there are eighteen days until I vote for the third time. What do I do in the mean time to figure this out? How do you all figure it out? Do you just go with your gut or is there a more cerebral process? Let me know! I could use some guidance!