Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Day, Politics and Genealogy


Yesterday morning, I walked over to my new polling place on Argyle at St. Augustana College (next to the historic Essanay Studios building) to vote. I tried to vote early last week but after waiting 30 minutes and watching a "crazy woman" start an incident requiring a call to 911 and a visit by Chicago police. I figured I was all stocked up on crazy and I decided to wait until Election Day to vote.

Voting wasn't exactly as easy as I had planned but voting shouldn't be easy, in my opinion.  Voting should be a challenge as well as an event for reflection.

There are those who would disagree with me and the entire genealogy blogging community. Those who feel that elections and politics have nothing to do with genealogy.  In a way they are correct - voting may have nothing to do with genealogy but it has everything to do with my family history. And it appears that mere mention of elections and asking folks to blog their memories of voting, or their family stories of elections or perhaps politicians in the family, smacks of patriotism.  As if that were a bad thing.

Plainly stated, if it weren't for the right and the privilege to vote here in the United States, I might not be here. As I stated on Facebook, whenever I vote I always think of what that right meant to my family and ancestors.  What did it mean to my Patriot ancestors Col. Victor Putman and Jonathan Austin? What did it mean to the women in my family when they first cast their ballots? What did it mean to the immigrant Hennebergs once they became U.S. citizens and voted for the first time? What did it mean to the veterans in my family who perhaps voted while fighting overseas or even here during our Civil War?

I stand where I am today because I had ancestors who could vote and did vote. They voted for change as much as they voted for the status quo. They voted Republican as much as they voted Democrat or Whig or perhaps even Socialist. They voted to raise taxes as much as they voted to eliminate them. The fact is they voted. They exercised their right and the results had an impact on the world in which my family lived and grew.

I'm not going to make any apologies to anyone for recalling the lives and stories of my ancestors while on that walk to the polling place. Nor will I apologize for expressing how politics, elections and voting affected my family. I feel comfortable discussing these issues in the context of my family history without trying to push my own personal causes or views. And if I want to have a different view of genealogy from what some would want to impose as a standard, so what?  It's a free country.

As Americans we live in a country where we can act, talk, walk, work, worship, and love differently than others - each in our own unique way. I believe that a democracy built on the right of every person to have an equal vote provides and protects the privilege to be unique, to be oneself. And that is a right and privilege that needs no apology. Ever.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

3 comments:

DianaR said...

Agree, agree, agree!! :-) I have to say that I love voting - almost as much as I don't love most all of the politicians these days! Ever since I could first vote it always makes me feel so good to see that I can go to my polling place and see people with opinions which are totally opposite of mine and we can vote together - no armed guards have to stand there to let that happen. In the presidential election my next door neighbor and I were standing in line together - he told me I should probably be in that line ON THE LEFT...and then he laughed and we went in and voted (for different people I quite sure.)

I also think quite a bit about my female ancestors - and I don't care if it sounds corny...I vote because they couldn't!

Kerry Scott said...

Well, of course you shouldn't apologize. There's nothing wrong here.

Honestly, I really want to try and understand what the real issue is here. It feels like there's way more than meets the eye.

Greta Koehl said...

Here's another one who gets a big kick out of voting. Walked into the polling place with a big smile, got my sticker, and schmoozed with the "hand-out" people from both sides for a little while afterwards. Not only do I remember a lot of voting stories from when I was little, but we've already got voting stories about my daughters.