My First Presidential Election as a U.S. Citizen & How I’m Moving Forward

It’s coming up on my four-year anniversary as a U.S. citizen. Becoming an American citizen was not an easy choice, but the rewards have been worthwhile, in particular the right to vote and opportunity to serve on a jury. I made a pact to vote in every election, and it wasn’t until this last election that I was finally able to vote for a United States president.

For me, the presidential choice was an easy one. I was with her, especially considering whom she was running against. On Election Day, I was proud to cast my vote for Hillary and optimistic about the future. However, I was stunned and unprepared to see how quickly my optimism dwindled and left me feeling gutted. It wasn’t long after we began watching the election returns that dread and disbelief entered my consciousness, and I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t realize I was so personally invested in the results.

The next day, when I woke up to what our new world would be, I felt like I was in an alternate reality. I couldn’t even look at our newspaper. I was embarrassed and shocked that we had such a man as Trump as our new head of state. In social media and in real life, I saw so many other people’s disbelief and anger at the results as well. It didn’t help me feel any better.

Staying angry, depressed, and full of despair and saying that Trump is not my president doesn’t help me going forward. Hillary won the popular vote. Most of our country supported her. However, he is our country’s new president and we need to do what we can to make sure America doesn’t fail miserably and is better prepared for the next presidential election.

I have never really been extremely interested in politics nor actively involved in it. Maybe it’s because I’ve had no say in the outcomes. This election made me realize that just voting isn’t always enough; it’s equally important to actively participate in the democratic process as it is to vote.

Going forward, I vow to do the following:

  • I will not tune out politics, but instead I will stay informed and follow political issues. I will seek out sources of respected, high-quality media. I will also look for new sources that help me exit the echo chamber. I want to hear other people’s points of view. If you’re looking for a new source, consider a new favorite podcast of mine, Pantsuit Politics, where two women, one from the left and one from the right, discuss politics in a fresh and nuanced way. Similarly, I will not let inaccurate, incomplete, fake news, or my new favorite phrase, “alternative facts” pass me by without commenting.
  • I will make a conscious effort to read books outside my normal tendency and comfort zone – more books by diverse authors and about issues or experiences new or unfamiliar to me. To start with, I’m adding these books to my to-be-read list (and I welcome suggestions):
  • Similarly, I will make sure to continue to provide opportunities to strengthen my kids’ understanding, empathy, and compassion for people unlike themselves both at home and abroad, and books is a great place to do so. I’m lucky and grateful both my boys are avid and voracious readers and generally accept the book recommendations I pass along. I’ve sought out books to help them understand and appreciate their Norwegian heritage. Now I’ll make a conscious effort to suggest and offer books that will help them understand the experiences of marginalized groups and causes affected by our political discussions. I’ve got a list in progress and welcome suggestions.
  • I will take action and let my elected officials hear my voice. This has always been a big unknown for me. Who exactly do I call and what do I say? But now I’ve been motivated to find out the details. There’s been lots of help floating around the internet these past couple of months. To begin with, I’ve confirmed who all my elected officials are in Congress (representatives here and senators here). Next I’ve found sources that address issues of concern. The 65 (referring to the more than 65 million Americans who rejected Trump on Election Day) is a website dedicated to Weekly Calls to Action. They provide scripts for a long list of issues along with contact info for party leadership and tips and strategies. Another site is Women’s March: 10 Actions/100 Days. It’s a campaign aimed at mobilizing the energy from the Women’s Marches of January 21, 2017, across the country and the world and encouraging everyone to take action on issues we all care about.

These action items might not seem like much to some, but for me they are a good place to start. What are you doing in the aftermath of this election?

My first voting experience ever

SONY DSCAs many of you know, I recently became a United States citizen. It was long overdue and a day of very mixed emotions for me, about which I wrote here. One thing I knew for sure, however, was that I was looking forward to exercising my right to vote and, probably surprising to many Americans, serving on a jury. My chance to vote came not long ago, and it was actually a somewhat important vote. Angelenos were voting for their next mayor.

I received my Official Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet many weeks in advance. It was a lot to read (88 pages!) and make sense of. I noted the date and place to vote, and then as the weeks went by, paid more attention to campaigning than I usually did.

Election Day came quickly. The day before my husband had suggested we go and vote together, but the day of we had a busy morning with commitments and lunch and then we headed back home totally forgetting about it being Election Day. It wasn’t until I was making dinner that I suddenly realized that we hadn’t voted yet. I was determined not to miss my first opportunity to vote. Luckily, the polls were open until 8pm and only a couple of minutes away from our house. After dinner, I quickly collected my sample ballot and made sure I knew how I was voting and headed to the polls. Hubby stayed home with the kids who were already in pjs. I wasn’t able to convince them to join me for an after-dinner family outing.

I was a little nervous. I didn’t even know how the voting machines worked. My kids, having accompanied their dad to vote in the presidential elections last year, knew more about the logistics of voting than I did. But I didn’t let that deter me. I entered the room where the booths were set up and was greeted warmly. I proudly told them this was my first time voting since I was a new citizen, and they were happy and eager to show me how to proceed. And they were curious to hear my story of becoming a citizen. I ran into a neighborhood friend there as well and shared my voting news with her, too. Everyone was very congratulatory and friendly. It was a very pleasant affair! And I felt a great sense of pride knowing that I had a say in who was going to be our next mayor.

votedAs I headed back to the car, I called my husband to tell him about my experience. He asked if I had received my “I voted” sticker, and of course I had proudly put it on. It seemed like my husband was going to skip voting this time around so I did my best to convince him otherwise. I told him his name was there just waiting for him to sign next to it, and there was no worry about having to wait in line to vote. There was always somebody there while I was there but never a line, though it did seem to be picking up a little that last half hour before the polls closed. It didn’t seem like I had convinced him, but to my surprise, he was ready to leave for the polls as soon as I pulled up in front of our house. I felt good knowing that we both had cast our votes and been good role models for our kids who one day hopefully will be as diligent about casting their votes as well.

Presidential Election 2012

It was an exciting day on Tuesday, November 6, not because we were eagerly awaiting the results of an election that would determine the president for the next four years, but because of how excited the kids were to be involved in the process. I am unable to vote, but my husband made sure to take the kids with him to the polls when he went so they could see first-hand how it’s done. Then we all watched TV as the results came in. Continue reading