I was very young when I recognized that pride in my country was just about mandatory in my family. My parents would cry at hearing the national anthem, my father would talk about how his parents arrived from Italy hoping the new world would afford them unimaginable opportunities. (grandpa came over TWICE!) My parents flew flags, voted, and believed the United States was the best place to live on earth.
This was not without its harsh realities. My parents were not blind to the faults of our political system, the horrors that those coming to the new world perpetrated upon the indigenous peoples, and the savagery that is glossed over in the (very white) history books.
Still, my parents shared such pride in being a United States citizen, it was difficult not to attach to that sentiment.
Once my brother entered the military, this sentiment was multiplied by about a million percent. (you think I am exaggerating, trust me, I am not) They were very proud of the sacrifice my brother made to serve with honor and ambition for thirty years. They were also proud of his family, who served right along with him, missing special occasions, long periods of time with him, and every day life. Trust me, they BOTH served. But yes, I digress.
As an adult, I feel like patriotism has been a requirement of my humanity. I have voted every opportunity I could (I actually both cried AND laughed the first time I was able to vote- I was so excited to do so), I have paid attention to the details when I would have much rather bury my head in anything but politics, and I have researched every single person I have ever voted for (or against. )
It sounds like a cliche, however, I believe deep in my being the ability to vote is my right AND my privilege.
Those are not just words. They are a directive.
Recently I have become quite enthralled (not the right word) captivated? (perhaps) by the Suffragette movement. (Both in the United States and abroad. )These women had the gumption to believe that every single person is equal and has a right to express their unique opinions. This was sparked on a trip that I took with my daughter. We stopped in Seneca Falls on the way home and visited The Women’s Rights National Museum. To say it was a profound experience was an understatement. To be there with my daughter was even more defining.
A few years later my daughter, a friend, and I returned to Seneca Falls on Inauguration day in 2017 to protest. If you know me at all, this is completely out of my character. I don’t rock the boat too hard on purpose, however, I felt the need to voice my opinion. I felt the need to stand up for what I believe in. It was uncomfortable, it was scary and uncertain.
I am so grateful that I took the chance to stand with countless others that day. I cannot begin to express to you the power I felt, the history in the making, the unity of every person there. The speeches, the actions, the gatherings were that of proactivity, not of hate. It was of unity, it was of action, it was life-changing for me. I felt like I was a part of something much bigger than myself. I felt like my opinion really did matter.
Thinking about the actions the original suffragettes took is incredibly powerful to me. They risked everything, (including their lives) for their beliefs. They took action daily to gain even an inch of progress. They were relentless in their pursuits. Eventually, they won women the right to have a say in what happens in their lives.
Skip to 2020- I have heard things like, “I don’t even want to vote this year.”
HOW DARE WE GIVE AWAY THIS OPPORTUNITY.
I am not going to tell you how to vote. That is not my desire or my mission. My mission is to remind you that this is not something to be taken for granted. This right, this privilege has been fought for by many. How dare we squander it because of our frustration. It is all the more reason that we SHOULD vote, that we should voice our opinions.
Today, I visited the grave of Susan B. Anthony. Maybe it was all the research I have done on her, maybe it was the sisterhood, but I felt such power standing there. It was a moment for me. I was alone, standing at the grave of the woman who gave me so much. She gave my daughter, my granddaughter, my sister, my nieces. so. damn. much.
While Susan had a tribe of women and men who fought the fight with her, she is an icon. She is a symbol, a reminder.
Susan said,” Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.“
I believe her wisdom still applies.
I charge you with this… dig deep, research, look at the facts, look at what each candidate stands for. Do this for every. single. level of government. Vote for who YOU believe in. Don’t worry about what Uncle Jon thinks, what Aunt Tilly might say, this is between you and your ballot. This is between you and your future. This is important.
Fight for what YOU believe in.