It was a cold December day in New York City nearly twenty-one years ago when my husband-to-be exited our hotel, noticed a parade of limos and police escorts parked at the curbside, approached a serious man in sunglasses, and curiously asked, “Who is staying here?” The man stared at him and then said, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.” And then he laughed one of those laughs that made both of us wonder if he was serious or just kidding. To this day, we still don’t know. But thanks to the bellhop’s cousin’s sister who once dated a Secret Service agent who later married her mother, we later found out that mysterious VIP was the Prime Minister of Greece. But that’s not the real reason why I’m telling this story.
My grandmother was born in 1914, a few years before the 19th Amendment finally passed in the Senate, allowing women to vote for the first time. As a result, my grandmother never took her right to vote for granted. She prided herself on keeping up with the latest political news, scoured the paper before every election, and kept a list of her choices before going to the polls to cast her vote. But there is one thing my grandmother never did before, during, or after every election.
After I became old enough to vote, I once questioned my grandmother on who she voted for in a prior presidential race. She leaned forward, grasped my hand, and said, “My vote is sacred. I will not answer your question.” I have to admit, I was taken aback. I asked why her vote was such a secret. She quickly replied, “I learned long ago that it is my right to keep my vote to myself. I should never have to apologize or make excuses about who I think is best to lead this country.” It was a life-changing moment for me. In a matter of seconds, I felt free. I didn’t have to try to convince anyone else how to vote, nor did I have to let anyone else convince me how to vote. It was patriotism at its best. But little did I know how upset it would make others when I refused to reveal the identity of my favorite candidates.
With only a few days until the election, the presidential race has heated up to a fury never seen before. Voters are passionate, angry, and desperate for answers. Social media sites have become home to vicious arguments about who is right and who is wrong. Chances are this will be an election few will forget, including my eighteen-year-old son who will vote for the first time. As he and I both quietly research each candidate and make our decisions who to cast our ballots for, I can assure you that neither of us knows who the other is voting for. In my family, we decided long ago that we can only control our own actions, not the actions of others. I feel at peace with my decisions and I’m pretty certain he does also.
During a time when we insist on privacy about our health issues, bank accounts, and how much weight we gained when we were pregnant, I really think it is okay to cast your vote, close your mouth, and never speak of it again.
But if someone puts you in a headlock and threatens to give you noogies until you divulge who you voted for, I give you permission to steal these words right out of that Secret Service Agent’s mouth: If I tell you, I’m going to have to kill you. And then laugh the kind of laugh where everyone wonders if you are serious or just kidding. It works every time. I promise.
By Vicky DeCoster – All Rights Reserved