It is Sunday afternoon. A football game hums on the television, providing some sense of normalcy. My son, who should be away at college, wanders into the kitchen from his upstairs lair.
His university went to all online classes and closed their dorms thanks to COVID. Our voting ballots sit untouched on the kitchen counter. We live in Oregon, which has been voting by mail since 1998, so mailing your ballot isn’t a political statement. It’s just something we do, like driving on the right side of the road.
My husband suggested we all vote together
Hearing my son rummage for food, my husband says, “Hey, let’s all vote together!”
I catch a spark in my son’s eyes reminiscent of a Christmas morning long ago—the one before he found out about Santa Claus. He is a politically astute kid who aspires to go to law school.
When he was in high school, his American Government teacher, Mr. Jones, had taken him and a few other students on a field trip to lobby members of the state legislatures on issues the students chose. My son’s topic was to change the voting age from eighteen to sixteen, a subject close to his heart.
Now eighteen, casting his first vote in an election is a note-worthy occasion.
“Yeah, let’s do it!” my son says. I make a small celebratory-pump-your-arm gesture. Finally, an activity we all agree on, or do we? I hand out the ballots and pass out the black ballpoint pens. My husband mumbles the directions out loud to himself. We scribble in silence.
Is my son’s generation the next “greatest generation?”
My brain operates a little like a bouncing ping pong ball, so I take a minute to focus. I wonder if my son’s passion to participate in our democracy is an anomaly, or if his interest in politics is something universal to all members of the class of 2020. They were born the year of 9/11 or shortly thereafter.
They witnessed the historical election of President Barack Obama as they entered first grade. Just when they were old enough to receive an allowance, the 2008 recession hit. High school launched with a stunning victory for President Trump, and then ended with the notoriety of graduating during a world-wide pandemic.
Enormous social and political changes in society have marked and impacted their development and perception of the world. I am impressed with this class’s endurance to adapt and overcome. They are little engines that can.
My mind flashes back to 1980-something when I was a teenager on the verge of voting. The headline that read something about Sammy Hagar replacing David Lee Roth as the lead vocalist for Van Halen garnered my attention more than that day’s hard news of Apartheid, the nuclear arms race, or an unknown disease devastating the gay community. Media outlets called my generation ‘slackers.’ The term conjures Spicoli’s image, the chill surfer dude in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
My MTV generation is now middle-aged and known for our entrepreneurial spirit, grunge and hip hop music. But perhaps our most incredible legacy will be as the parents of Gen Zers—whose hardships will prepare them to be master problem solvers who work to build a better world. The next ‘greatest generation’ in the making.
My husband and I finish marking our ballots in about fifteen minutes. Our son diligently reviews the voter’s guide on some lesser-known local candidates. He takes about twice as long to complete his ballot.
“Be sure to sign it,” says my husband.
“Otherwise, it won’t count,” I chime.
The voting process was peaceful for us
I marvel at how peaceful the voting process was for us, and it gives me hope for our country in November. A meme a friend posted said, “What if 2021 is like hey 2020, hold my beer?” I chuckled, but as the election looms closer, it feels like the country is on the verge of a giant kegger, not sure if the party will fizzle or explode.
I wasn’t expecting too much dissent during our family vote. We had hashed out our differences at the dinner table. An encyclopedia of political knowledge, my son more than held his own in our debates.
We, the parents, can score some points based on our lifelong experience—not all knowledge is read online or taught in a classroom. What we have recognized is that sometimes it is better to agree to disagree. We can talk all we want, but it is our vote that is counted.
A peaceful transfer of power is in our DNA
Add in our extended family, and this voting scene may not be as serene—yet I love and respect them and they us. I am confident a group voting event would come to a peaceful conclusion. Maybe it will be the same for our country? Perhaps the events leading up to the election have worked out the angst. Aren’t we all Americans—one big family? At the end of the day/election, don’t we still love and respect each other? A peaceful transfer of power is in our DNA.
As my son stuffs his ballot in the envelope provided, he fumbles with the privacy panel saying, “This is stupid. It doesn’t even cover my votes.”
“Don’t overthink it,” I advise and then suggest, “Hey, let’s get a family-selfie holding up our ballots.” To my amazement, my son agrees! I am grateful that he is not away at school. I get to share this experience with him. We giggle and shuffle to snap our photo, which I post on Facebook because, I am THAT MOM.