|I am old enough to remember this. Which makes me feel old.|
Ugh. Election years. I know that, for some of you, these are joy-filled days. You love the constant battle-mode. Debates on television, on your facebook pages and Twitter feeds keep you up at night and twitchy with anticipation. For me? I grow tired very quickly.
National elections are particularly challenging for me. For most people, your political stripes come from your parents. It's the same here, except that my mother's political stripes were so different from everyone else's in my family and community. Growing up in Miami, among Cubans, usually means you vote for the Republicans. But my mom, my awesome, contrarian mother, is a Democrat, as am I most days.
I should maybe back up, and explain as best I can why Cubans tend to lean right. It's a complicated thing, really, and a choice I totally understand. It goes way back to JFK and the Bay of Pigs, which, as far as I'm concerned, was a good effort that turned very quickly into betrayal, with so many good Cuban men trapped in political prisons on the island. Fast forward to the Mariel debacle, a Carter legacy, and the Elian Gonzalez nightmare and the Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy, both Clinton decisions, and you can see how, historically, the Democrats haven't exactly been a nemesis to Fidel Castro. Add to the mix the entrepreneurial spirit in Miami, driven by middle class Cuban exiles, a high-achieving population that does not share the same troubles of other Latino groups, and there you have a recipe for Republicans.
I wrote briefly about my first introduction to politics as a kindergartener during the 1980 election here. But the notion that my mother was voting "differently" didn't occur to me until the 1988 Dukakis-Bush election. I was in the 8th grade that spring, and I remember my teacher asking the class who they would vote for. She announced Dukakis' name first, and I shot my hand up. Mom was voting for Dukakis, so obviously, he was the right (er, left) guy. I was the only hand up in a room of forty kids. For a 13 year old, this is the worst thing ever. You never want to be the only kid doing anything. Then, she asked who was voting for Bush. Why bother, really? The answer was: everyone else.
Later, I remember a mock trial during the 1992 election, and Bill Clinton swept our high school, and I scrawled his name on my journal and circled it with a heart.
My enthusiasm has waned for politicians, left or right. I'm more of an independent than anything else. And while I love it when politicians speak about Cuba in ways that suggest openings for freedom and a return to a democratic way of life for the island I love, it isn't the only issue that I take with me to the polls.
When Marco Rubio started his RNC speech with this line: "Para Cuba que sufre, la primera palabra," he was drawing on historical precedent, repeating the words José Julián Martí spoke in Tampa in 1891 before the Cuban War of Independence reached its final pinnacle. The translation is: "For a suffering Cuba, the first word." Guys, that moved me. That moves me still. It means a lot, that in this guy's first convention, he spoke in Spanish to Cubans everywhere.
But, I'm not voting for Mitt Romney.
There's the rub. This is why I hate elections so. Because I always feel as if I'm being asked to choose between my love for my family's homeland, and other social and economic issues here are home. I love Cuba. I love my gay friends and relatives, too. That kind of thing. Which is the greater? I feel like the baby in the King Solomon story. Ouch.
I can never really choose. I can never circle a name on election day and feel 100% good about it. So, I go with my gut most times. Mitt's not my guy. Ryan is really not my guy. That 47% debacle is upsetting to me. The fact that Mitt thinks he'd have an easier time as a Latino is doubly upsetting. Obama is okay, I guess. I wouldn't necessarily go to the mat for him, either. So, I'll go with the old Cuban saying, "Mejor sabido que por saber," which basically means, go with the known versus the unknown.
The worst part is the sinking feeling, when election adrenalin runs so hard and fast, that my Republican friends will no longer love me for my choice. Or that my Democrat friends will drop me for admiring Marco Rubio. I hope that's not true. Because it certainly feels all angry up in the social networks these days.
Some days, it feels like I'm still the only one with my hand up in the 8th grade.
Some days, I've got company.
Either way, I still want to hang out with everyone.
I blame my mom.
And hey, Republican friends, rest easy. I live in Alabama. This state will be red on the map. I'm outnumbered here, by a wide, wide margin. And I still love you, even though you all liked Sarah Palin;)
Comments disabled, obvs. Nothing brings the trolls like talking politics.