During the summer of 1968, we were on our annual summer pilgramage to my mother's hometown in central Kentucky. I recall being gathered around the kitchen table at my Aunt Emily's house, eating homemade peach ice cream. The Democratic National Convention was on the television in the background, some of the men sitting around watching Hubert Humprey become the nominee for President. One of the littler cousins turned to my Uncle Bud and said innocently, "Papaw, what are we? Democrats or 'Publicans?"
"Hmph," my uncle replied, "we are Democrats in this family, boy, and don't you ever forget it."
So my political leanings seem to have been bred in my southern bones, along with my love of going barefoot, my taste for pecan pie and mint in my tea. Admittedly, I've never been more than a lackadaisical Democrat, have never done more than dutifully cast my ballot in Presidential and Gubernatorial elections.
But this election feels different to me. It feels like this country is at a watershed moment, as if we're poised on the brink of a precipice and could quite easily tip over, careening down a path of destruction. The stakes are high in this election, and this time when I cast my vote for the Democratic party, I feel as if it carries more weight than it ever has before.
In the past eight years, we've seen firsthand the power of the Presidency - and certainly not in a good way. We've seen only too well how one man can lead a nation to the brink of destruction globally, can erode its economy, can create an atmosphere of hopelessness and loss among its people. How one man can exacerbate a personal vendetta war that costs thousands of young lives and billions of dollars.
I rarely mention politics on any of my blogs, because that's not what my writing here is about. But I believe the times must change in this country. And I believe of the two candidates who are running for President, Barack Obama is the man who has the best chance of making that change occur. During the course of this seemingly endless campaign, he has impressed me with his logical, common sense approach to domestic and foreign issues, his vision for new opportunities for the middle class, and his serenity and cool headed manner. He strikes me as a man who thinks things through, who pays attention to detail, and who does not jump rashly into a situation without being fully prepared.
These qualities will serve him well in a country that's hungry for hope, guidance, and strong leadership.
Although I was raised in a family of Democrats, I married into a family of Republicans. Rabid ones at that. (My father in law kept an 8 x 10 glossy of Ronald Regan on his bedroom wall.) It's never been an issue between Jim and I, because neither one of us was all that invested in the political process. But lately I've been telling him (and I'm only half joking, people) that if McCain wins this election, I'm moving to Canada (or maybe even Australia) and renouncing my citizenship. "If the American people are stupid enough to elect another Republican," I've been known to say when I get really riled up on the subject, "than I don't even want to be an American anymore."
Whether it was my threats, or whether he's finally seen the error of his ways, my spouse is about ready to jump off the sinking Republican ship. For once, when we go to the polls, we won't cancel each other's vote.
And for the first time in my life as a voter, I feel as if my vote counts for more than just a token show of alliance to the Democratic party. It counts for my fervent hope that the next leader of this troubled nation has the strength, the wisdom, and the grace of God to turn things around.