We were driving to a meeting with his job coach when Chase asked, “Mom you don’t have a $12,000 coat do you?”
I laughed. “No, I don’t have a $12,000 anything.”
“Well did you hear about Hillary Clinton’s coat?”
“I saw something on Facebook about it.”
“Can you believe that?”
“Yeah I can. Designer clothes are expensive but to be fair men in the presidential race spend a lot of money on their clothes too.”
“Not Bernie Sanders.”
He had me laughing. “Probably not.”
“I’ll be glad when the election is over,” he said.
“So will a lot of people.”
We got out of the car and found a penny on the way into our meeting. It was near the pole that was flying the American flag at half-staff in honor of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.
Moved by all that represents I put my arm around him and said, “I’m sorry that in the first presidential election you get to vote in you aren’t excited about the choices.”
“It’s okay Mom it’s not your fault.”
“I know but I wish you could be happy about it.”
Our conversation was interrupted by the meeting we had and didn’t pick up again until the following Sunday—Father’s Day. Chase saw something in the news that sparked more discussion.
“Unfortunately, I don’t want to throw away my vote so I’m going to have to pick one of them,” he said.
“Hey wait a minute,” I said. “You’ll have other choices. You could always vote Libertarian.”
“What librarian?” he asked.
“What the heck is that?”
“There are other parties besides the Republicans and Democrats and in the presidential election you can vote for whoever you want.”
“Yeah but I’ve heard some adults, we both know, say that’s a waste.”
“No it’s not.”
“But they won’t win.”
“But if you vote against your conscience you lose.”
He looked at me totally confused.
“Chase you know how you won’t lie about how you feel about something?”
“Well when you vote for someone you don’t want to be president just because you think you have to, you’re in essence lying. That’s an oversimplified way of putting it but do you get the idea?”
“Yes but nobody can beat either of those two.”
“Maybe not but what do you want to be known for? Voting your conscience or going along with all the people who think you only have two choices? Can you live with that?”
“No. But it won’t do any good.”
“That’s not true either bud. Elections are watched closely and what happens in this next election will impact the next. How you vote is one of the ways you show people what you value. It’s a statement of preference.”
He still looked confused.
“Okay let’s go with a silly example. Let’s say you go into Taco Bell and you’re looking for something a little different so you ask if they can make a peanut butter and jelly burrito. They look at you like you’re nuts but the next day someone comes in and asks for the same thing. Then another person asks for one and says something about it on Facebook. Soon a groundswell develops over the peanut butter and jelly burrito. (#pbjb) How long do you think it will take Taco Bell to put it on the menu?”
“Because people want it.”
“So your request for a peanut butter and jelly burrito is just like your vote. It has the power to influence the future even if it doesn’t change the immediate.”
“Well I’m going to stick with chili cheese burritos Mom but I get it.”
“I’m not trying to tell you who to vote for but please don’t buy into the myth that you can waste your vote. The only wasted vote is one not cast. Vote in a way that brings a win for you. Keep your integrity intact. Find the candidate that’s best aligned with what you value and tune all the other nonsense out. It’s not about what anyone is wearing or not wearing.”
Relieved he gave me a hug and walked away from the table standing a little taller. I did too. I’m not the first time voter he is but I’ve grown very cynical and needed the pep talk as much as he did. It’s refreshing to remember that while I might not like everything on the menu, I can order with some integrity.