For nearly 40 years, even since she came to the U.S. from India, my mother never paid all that much attention to politics. She would vote, but it’s not like she followed the day-to-day machinations of Congress. There were more important things to worry about.
Over the past few years, as my own work began to intersect a lot more with politics, it became a bigger topic of conversation between us. She learned more details about how our government worked, formed opinions about which policies were good and bad, and started watching the news. Like really watching the news instead of just letting it play in the background.
After my daughter was born a year ago, my mom didn’t want her in daycare every day, so she took more days off of work to spend time with the baby. I can blog from anywhere, so I’ve spent a good part of the past year driving back and forth between our places. But whenever I was at her place, I’d turn on the news and we’d watch the election coverage together.
She was appalled by what Donald Trump was saying every day. I was, too, even though we both knew it could be worse. We’re not Muslim. We’re not Mexican. We’re not living in poverty or worried about having no access to health care. But my mom knows what it’s like to be an immigrant, and she knows that if President Trump were in charge a few decades ago, she might not be here today.
Despite all that, it took me by surprise when she told me last month that she wanted to be an election judge. It was a way for her to get more involved with the political system. She was tired of watching from the sidelines and wanted to help in some small way by volunteering her time.
And what did she learn?
That we live in a country that doesn’t give a damn about people like her. That white supremacy is alive and well. That whatever progress we’ve made for various minority groups over the past several years can be taken away in an instant. That democracy is only as good as the people in it. That our state of Illinois might be a decent place, but the rest of the country is full of people who don’t care about anyone but themselves.
How’s that for a civics lesson.