Sunday, April 5, 2020 -
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Whenever election season rolls around, and especially election day itself, I know this sounds so corny — but I genuinely do get that feel-good democracy vibe. Not to overdo the point, but if I were amassing a list of “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things,” I would literally need to add “voting” right along there with the “schnitzel and noodles.”

My grandmother, who was born in 1916, to a feminist mother — you might as well picture a Sister Suffragette — ingrained in me the holy right and privilege of having the freedom and ability to vote.

If I already invoked one famous children’s musical, “The Sound of Music,” I will invoke its companion too. Because my great-grandmother definitely fits the Mary Poppins lyrics of: “We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats/Dauntless crusaders for women’s votes!”

My grandmother took voting so seriously and impressed upon us how crucial a duty it is for us to voice our vote. She was like my personal Susan B. Anthony. Her pride in exercising the 19th Amendment was palpable.

Whether she was ill or the weather was terrible, and even in very old age, she always cast her ballot!

I remember approaching my first election and the conversations surrounding it. My grandmother and my parents made me feel like a million bucks for being able to exercise this privilege and rite of passage into young adulthood.

There were many stimulating discussions about the goals of both the Democratic and Republican party and what the differences were.

I remember thinking so much about it and feeling torn and honored, like this decision was so monumental.

As if my registering to vote would really mean something (which of course it does). But looking back at the naivete of my youth, I laugh.

Ultimately, I registered as an independent, with a deep appreciation and respect for America’s Founding Fathers, for their wisdom, their system of checks and balances, that is in large part what makes America the great nation that it is.

The first time I voted, my father accompanied me and guided me. I had been inside the top secret voting booth before, as I’d been taken along as a child. This time, however, the occasion was imbued with a sense of state importance. You would think I was embarking on a political career about to announce my candidacy.

Since then, he has always gone to great lengths to ensure that me and my siblings, some of whom are still registered in Colorado, would receive absentee ballots with more than enough time for us to send them in.

I always value my father’s political guidance and opinions because he is so thought out about each issue.

One by one, as colorful discussions ensue, we combed through the issues on the ballot, as he explained the various purposes and complexities of each.

Over the years, there have been so many times when we sit around the dining room table together, ballots unfurled, and we talk it over, as we each choose and mark squares according to our own preferences.

There were years I voted from Manhattan, and years I voted from Jerusalem.

In New York City, it’s always a perfect New York fall day, of lines and lines of people winding around the block, framed by gold and orange-tinged trees.

In Jerusalem, I remember one election in particular, where in my mind I felt an added sense of importance to my exercising my right to vote.

The year was 2000.

The tension in the air — you could cut it with a knife — if you even ventured outside for anything other than the absolute basics. It was right at the beginning of the intifada, though it wasn’t formally called that yet.

It was right after the grisly lynching of two Israelis in Ramala, with the sickeningly iconic, bloodied palms-at-the-window photo, seared into our psyches.

Bombs were everywhere.

The air was thick with fear and the unknown. There was an eerie feeling of terrible possibilities in the air.

I was still in my twenties and hadn’t even yet voted in that many elections; this time, I decided, I was going to forgo the dangerous trip to the post office. A potentially treacherous location.

But voting was the type of thing we were nudged about in my family.

My parents and my grandmother asked me about my ballot. I shouldn’t forget to take care of it.

It gnawed at me.

Of course, had they known my conflict they would have told me
to forget about it and not go to a busy part of the city — always a target.

But as deadline was nearing, with my heart nervously beating so loudly that I could hear it, I gathered my courage and went ahead to send my ballot from the post

In my young mind, it was akin to an act of major civil duty, a risk to be taken for the sake of American freedom.

Of course, many throughout history truly have sacrificed for our right to vote. And many have had to cross very real barriers in order to cast a vote.

But I still always think of that little ballot I cast in 2000 as my personal piece of voting history when I overcame fear in order to do all I could to ensure I voted.

This year, again, I was grateful to have my father’s wisdom and counsel. By now, it is a ritual.

On a lighter note, when an election game made the rounds this year, including “your last name and your last text is your campaign slogan,” this is what turned out to be mine: “Goldberg . . . grumpified.”

Forget about the privilege of voting. With that slogan I’m now ready to run!

Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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