BY CANDY PARKER
The 2012 presidential election is just two weeks away and I am nervous. As pollsters continue to poll and statisticians continue to crunch, dissect and report the numbers, that of which I once felt assured — Barack Obama’s reelection — appears in jeopardy. I equate the feeling to that of a sports fan whose team has taken a lead only to fritter it away as the clock slowly ticks down; I’m watching helplessly, willing the days and weeks to pass before Romney flip-flops his way to a victory.
As corny as it may sound I feel a special responsibility to speak up and speak out this election season, as I live in a state (or more accurately a Commonwealth) that will play a critical role on November 6 — Virginia. Specifically, I am in Loudoun County, an area some say will be one of the counties to help determine the next president.
I make no secret of my allegiance; those visiting my home are greeted by an Obama/Biden sign planted firmly on the front lawn — it’s a fantastic deterrent for the Romney canvassers, too — and I’m not shy about joining in on the political discussions that take place at my office or with my friends, many of whom are straight and don’t necessarily share the same concerns as those of us in the LGBT community.
But for all my soap-boxing and as confident as I am in how I’ll be casting my vote in a couple of weeks, I am disconsolate knowing that my vote may be cancelled out in this critical county by the person I love more than any other in this entire world — my 22-year-old son.
Yes, among my failings as a parent is that my son may be a Republican. Mind you, I say “may,” as he has refused to discuss the matter with me in any substantive way. I tried to have “the talk” with him a few days ago, just to feel out whether or not he planned to vote and, if so, whether he’d be going red or blue, but he was a more reluctant participant than when we’d had other versions of “the talk” in his younger days — the requisite coming-of-age sex, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes discussions from which he’d also shied.
He was first eligible to vote in 2008 and did so as an uninformed voter who had fallen in with a bad crowd — McCain supporters. As with many issues, politics were a subject on which my son’s opinions have been influenced more by his friends than by me, despite my best efforts to instill my socially liberal values. Four years ago, frustrated, I tried to correct the record as he and his friends stood in my kitchen discussing outrageous allegations regarding Obama’s birth certificate or the rumor they’d heard somewhere about how Obama planned to do away with the American flag if elected President. Ultimately, he cast a vote for McCain/Palin, an act which disappointed me, but one which I knew did no real harm given Obama’s position in the polls.
Now it’s 2012 and my son is no longer an impulsive and naïve teenager, but rather a matured young adult. If he votes this year (again, I can neither confirm nor deny his intent in that regard) it will be from a more informed position. He’s taken serious interest in the debates this year, even calling to ask me to record the second presidential debate when he was running late getting home that evening. And when I’ve ventured to the basement to access the laundry room, I’ve seen CNN on his man-cave television as often as I’ve seen ESPN. (No Fox News, thank goodness!)
But while he may no longer be the foolish 18-year-old who bit on the birther allegations, his world view is still very much shaped by that of his friends and by the “what’s in it for me?” blinders of youth. And my concern is that he’s looking around at his contemporaries who graduated college this past May and seeing that they have stepped out into the working world to find that the only jobs available to them are those similar to the ones they held in high school, low-paying retail or service industry positions.
I see his frustration, their frustration, and I see that frustration being directed at the man who promised us all hope and change four years ago. While I’ve been around long enough to realize that real change takes time and that presidents, despite their pledges to the contrary, have limited power to effect that change, my son doesn’t have that perspective. And I can look at the mess Obama inherited and recognize that our current plight has more to do with what occurred during George W. Bush’s administration than anything Obama may have done or not done, but my son looks only to the man currently holding office. To him and many of his friends, their situation doesn’t seem all that hopeful as they find themselves underemployed and thus unable to take the next step toward independence. Most still live at home and would be up the creek without significant support from their parents.
I’ve attempted to convey my beliefs that the economy is largely cyclical, beyond the direct impact of any sitting president, and prevail upon my son to consider the aspects of our country’s direction over which a president does exert more influence, specifically those that impact me as a woman and as a lesbian. I’ve tried to educate him regarding the unprotected employment status of LGBT citizens in many states, about the separation of church and state and how our slippery slide toward melding the two has resulted in the suppression of my civil rights. I’ve also reminded him that my ability to continue to provide him healthcare coverage at a reasonable cost was bestowed by our current president.
But, sadly, those arguments fall short in swaying him as he’s smart enough to know that I’m not going to lose my job for being gay — I’ve been with the company 25+ years and have been out for 15 of those — and, from his self-centered perspective of youth, he’s not really all that concerned about some other lesbian somewhere losing hers while he’s stuck at a job at my office that pays $9/hour scanning old contract documents. And, honestly, he’s not all that worried about not having health insurance because, well, he’s healthy and has never had to worry about not having health insurance.
And so it is that I sit here a scant 14 days before the 2012 presidential election contemplating the political enemy within, so to speak — the child for whom I suffered eight months of morning sickness and a caesarean section to bring into this world. I’m hoping that at some point in the next two weeks he’ll open up a bit and want to talk about the election, though, frankly, we don’t talk about these days. But just as I continue to believe in the change offered by then-candidate Obama, I continue to believe that change is possible under my roof and that, ultimately, my son won’t cast his vote in a way that will serve as a political slap in the face to me and my fellow LGBT Americans.
Candy Parker is a humorist who enjoys sharing her most embarrassing moments with the world and otherwise affirming her mere mortal status.