Personal Politics

I step out in the predawn light ready for my walk when I spy the sign by the garage entrance. My walk timer is already on. I pause it while I consider where to put the sign up. I skip the lawn or the strip by the pavement even though it would be more visible in favor of a spot in the mulched beds closer to the house. I figure it would make it easier for the mowers to leave the sign alone.

I position it, step back, adjust and repeat until I realize the morning light is out. I mutter to myself as I plant it “May you sprout like the weeds you are amidst.”

I walk, chanting as I usually do. In my neighborhood of hundred homes, I count three #BidenHarris signs. There are a few graduation signs, other advertising signs but no other expressions of political allegiance.

In my late teens, I would ask my thatha each time he would return from exercising his franchise, whom he voted for. He would always reply that it was his secret.

“Your vote is your superpower, you do not give it away.”

His tone playful, his eyes twinkling, he would hold out his index finger for me to inspect, to see with my eyes that he did exercise his fundamental duty to vote.

I took it to heart, his commandment to keep my electoral choices a secret. I also subscribed to the view that politics was saakadai, a dirty, stinky slush you keep away from. I had the privilege of being apolitical, of being disdainful of who came to power. None of the policies affected me. I was young, single, carefree and privileged.

In the nearly three decades since, I have grown wiser. I am a mother. I am raising daughters. I pay taxes. I get to see how those taxes work. I sit in meetings with my childrens’ school (to which I pay no additional tuition) and advocate for more services for my children. I argue with the school board on whether or not my children should be in school in the midst of a pandemic. I see first hand how my taxes work.

I also sadly, have a birds eye view to poverty and choices women are forced to make when systems fail them. I hear first hand stories of what happens when women flee domestic abuse and are left to fend for themselves and their children. I know first hand what it means when a mother has to make a choice between keeping her children with her and placing them with another family for them to raise. It is heartbreaking. It is also the symptom of a system that is flawed.

I see people around me who complain about paying taxes and then engage lawyers to fight the system because they feel they are not getting the services they feel entitled to. The thing with taxes and social good is that we only get to dictate where our money is spent on if we exercise our franchise and get the people whose political and ideological views line up with our own, in power. This has to happen at the local level and upward.

In any case, over the past few years, I have learnt that keeping my political choices to myself is great but it does nothing for my children. For them to be advocates of the things they care about, I need to model that behavior. It means having conversations about government, about people who make decisions and, who gives them that power. It is about wearing my heart on my sleeve or my tee. It is about telling them why I am rooting for the people I am.

As they grow and their views become independent, they may or may not fall on the same side I am rooting for. All I can hope is that I am raising them to know their mind and not be afraid of showing it to the world around them.