At the impressionable age of eighteen in the 2000 US presidential election at a small church in Fort Myers, Florida, I arbitrarily cast my vote. I didn’t read the paper, watch the news, or vote in the primaries. I chose Dubya in the little voting booth and decisively punched my chad (no hanging or pregnant chads here!) and went on with my life. I wasn’t particularly proud of the vote at the time. My parents rarely discussed politics with me (I, being an obnoxious teenager, they being conservatives) and I had no idea who they voted for until after the voting was over. In the 1980’s my dad paid cash for a new boat, house, and cars. We traveled to Europe and took cruises around the Caribbean. My mom chaired a charity ball, where I (one of the privileged children allowed into the ball) donned a white dress; ruched at the torso and chiffon at the knees with a black cropped jacket—short sleeved, sparkly, with pouffy sleeves.
But an outfit is not an outfit without a Hair Concept. Is that really a thing? Yes it is!
I wore the dress and French braid hair concept at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, FL. This girl I know did some sculptures that, now that I think about it, kind of reminds me of that place. These memories: riding horses at summer camp, learning to sail, snorkeling in the Virgin Islands, and playing outside with wholesome neighborhood kids, defined the ideal political state for me. Perhaps I connected this time with republican ideals and thus voted for Bush? It wouldn’t be much of a stretch, but I never really read into it at the time.
The next August I flew into Bradley International Airport to attend Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Surrounded by new ideologies and non-Christians I felt encouraged to explore these new, previously taboo, ideas. I heard a lot of complaining about “the man” and recognized an acute attention to the faults of the United States. The fact that I mentioned, on several occasions, in the company of these “progressive thinkers” that I, in fact, voted for Gore, and was therefore clearly disparate from the bumbling idiocy of Florida, reveals that I was more interested in talking about most anything other than politics. Admitting to voting for Bush would’ve meant a barrage of questions. Questions would lead to a debate that (at that time) I would’ve entitled, The World’s Most Boring Conversation Ever.
My 19-year-old sentiments exactly!
My little white lie reveals a total lack of political conviction. There was a lot of complaining about things I had never heard complaints about. “White people are too privileged.” “Americans are stupid and don’t care about the environment.” Growing up I intensely enjoyed the Floridian wildlife: catching and watching hundreds of different species from barracudas to coral snakes to panthers to manatees, I felt protective of these creatures. I invented a portable photometer to measure water clarity (it would replace the Secchi disk)! Surely I was an environmentalist?
Secchi Disk How-To
I liked to paint and wear weird clothing. Surely I was avant-garde? I was as hip as these hipsters? But still, I never related to the incessant airing of grievances against “the (ever oppressive) man”. I thought that I must not be passionate about politics. I didn’t really know where I stood and didn’t think much about it.
Just after September 11, 2001 I went to an on-campus vigil. I was confused, and mostly sad and worried about the people suffering as the world trade center smoldered. I don’t remember really listening what the speakers had to say (again, a testament to my lack of interest in politics), but the last one, a student, ended his thoughts with a chant of, “No More War.” My heart started pounding and I felt enraged and even offended to be enveloped by this stupidly idealistic cry. I looked to the outer bounds of these chanting twenty-somethings to see a group of 20 or so Middletown residents, some with children, protesting the hippified plea with “U-S-A”. I knew then that I may have a little bit of hippie in me, but I was no liberal. I did not chant along with either group, because chanting, frankly, is just un-cool. My political disinterest remained and I mostly remained silent when politics were discussed still mostly thinking it was a boring topic.
Two semesters and I was off to a summer job in northern Maine as a white water rafting guide. The river manager of the rafting company and I immediately hit it off and haven’t been apart since. He served in the Marine Corps from 1992-1996 and I feel fortunate to know a veteran’s perspective when forming my political opinions. Understanding the importance of morale for troops in war times was important in my understanding of the war on terror, and specifically the war on Iraq. Fighting against terrorists didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Plus, to be honest, the “Hey y’all watch this!” mentality appeals to me in most activities.
I am, after all, from south Florida.