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CAROLINE WATKINS: Land of The Free and Home of The Brave

Caroline Watkins
Caroline Watkins

If you had told me a year ago that I would cast my vote for Donald Trump, I would’ve thought you were stark, raving mad. Perhaps you’re thinking I am just that and will stop reading, but I humbly ask you to stay with me because the purpose of this column is neither to defend that issues-driven choice nor attack the other side.

Only very recently did I start to consider writing my first political column ever about the importance of voting and a return of civil discourse. I e-mailed my niece, requesting permission to quote her and adding- with regard to the civil discourse part (and a virtual wink): “A girl can dream, can’t she?”

A little background. I grew up as the youngest of 7 in a, yes, Catholic family with loving parents who were staunch Democrats. I voted the Democratic ticket until my first child was born, at which point I started to help my former husband run a small business. I have largely voted Republican ever since.

Would I personally prefer Marco Rubio to be in the running? Absolutely. Just like my oldest daughter would prefer Bernie Sanders. Yet when I pulled my head out of the sand and removed my oars from the River of Denial – just prior to the first debate – I knew I had to vote for one of the two ACTUAL contenders, however excruciating that choice may be. Staying home on election day was not an option.

Because I don’t watch television as a general rule (my youngest daughter had to cue up that first debate for me), I was able to start with a “cleaner slate” than most. I have prayed for wisdom and discernment; considered both conservative and liberal viewpoints, especially women’s; and tried to “think beyond the headlines.”

Here’s what I am appalled by, now that I’ve started – embarrassingly – to pay attention: the lack of information on both sides of the political equation and, hence, fair and balanced reporting in main-stream media, and how we “average Americans” are treating each other in this pre-election process.

I’ve never been afraid to tell people who I’m voting for and felt in such a distinct minority…until now. And believe me, I am no political junkie. Thus, it was out of character for me to even send out a message to vote, albeit unbiased, to my entire distribution list and even more so to send one that was, well, biased to a much smaller group- some of whom I knew were undecided and/or planning not to vote. The latter engendered criticism that I was getting “messy.” Well, guess what? This whole thing is messy!

Nevertheless, when my niece discovered who I’m voting for, she didn’t “peg” me or resort to name calling- nor would she, of course. Yet her exact words are ones which we can ALL learn from: “Well, family above politics. I love you more than whomever you decide to vote for. I appreciate that you are making the best decision you can, as well as I am. I trust this will not affect our relationship!”

Isn’t that entirely lovely and respectful? Although I have to say the possibility of our voting preferences affecting our relationship is nothing short of horrifying. Yet we’re good, and for that I am beyond thankful. So here’s the news flash, my friends: civil discourse doesn’t start with “them” – clearly not the candidates or the media – it starts with each and every one of us. In our dialogue: face-to-face, in writing and on social media.

I mentioned to the smaller group I e-mailed that never before in my voting lifetime (34 years) have I lost sleep and shed tears over an election and the future of our country. Never before have I feared that facts as well as “facts” will obfuscate truth. Never before have I entertained the thought that our Land of the Free and Home of the Brave is quite literally hanging in the balance.

I’ll “simply” leave it at that and conclude with the quote to VOTE, which will be a repeat for some of you and which, truth-be-told, received more responses than my column ever has. It came from a conservative pundit so I have edited the more partisan elements out:

“In (14) days, you, the American people, have a huge choice to make…I concede that neither candidate is perfect, and that both are flawed…But the question in this election is not who is ‘worse,’ or whose flaws are bigger or smaller. The question is, who has the best vision going forward for the future of America.

This election does not belong to the media! It belongs to ALL of us. It belongs to the 300-plus million American people. It belongs to the voters of this country. Every last one of us.
Look at the facts. Look at the differences between the overall policies of these two candidates. Look at the two completely polar opposite directions each of these candidates wants to lead our country in. Make a decision based on which candidate is better, in your own judgment, and do it for the future of the country.”

In my opinion it’s high time to stop complaining about the choices before us and start being grateful that we have one at all! So please go to the polls on November 8th, and no matter who you vote for or who gets elected…

God bless you.

And God bless America.

Caroline Watkins

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