Christine Flowers, 8/19/2016 [Archive]

For My Dad, I Won't Vote for Either

By Christine Flowers

On the whole, I'm an imperfect Catholic, but there is one particular area of my Christian identity in which I excel: guilt.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my father, who wasn't the sort of person to wallow in guilt, although I'm quite certain he was well acquainted with this shadow friend. He just didn't talk much about it. Instead, he internalized his feelings and manifested whatever penance he thought he owed through action.

My father risked his life to make sure other Americans not as blessed as he was could vote. In could have spent the summer of 1967 he went to Mississippi one year before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and three years after young civil-rights workers were murdered in Philadelphia, Miss. Voting meant that much to him.

It means that much to me, because of him. I never walked across my own Edmund Pettis bridge, and I never had to fight to get to a polling place. No one ever tried to deprive me of my birthright, which, had I been born in 1861 and not 1961, would have been unthinkable. In this country, voting is the most precious incident of citizenship, and when I see how my immigration clients fight to earn it for themselves, I wonder how anyone could ever take it lightly.

But then, this year happened. I was presented with the most mediocre candidates this country could extract from its bowels, a man and a woman who reflect the basest and most troubling aspects of our identity. The man wants to use false labels to turn foreigners into criminals and terrorists, while the woman lies and says that abortion is "health care." The man ridicules war heroes, and the woman calls Republicans and other political opponents "terrorists." I could go on, and I have in other columns, where I've lamented the putrid quality of the candidates, but I don't really have the stomach.

It has gotten to the point that I've said I will not vote for either of the horror shows presented for daily inspection. That has elicited the usual partisan flame-throwing from both sides, and I now expect that no one will be happy with whatever I say about anything, anytime, anyhow.

But that's not the point. I don't really care what other people think about my "non-choice." I care about what I'm doing if I don't vote. I think back on my father, who is likely looking down upon me with a bemused Irish smile, and saying, "Christine, I'll kick your freckled ass if you mess this up." My mother is probably sitting beside him saying "Ted, leave her alone."

The truth is, I feel guilty at the thought that I won't be able to vote for president this year. I feel ashamed that I would voluntarily relinquish the gift for which my father fought to give to others less privileged than a white suburban college-educated professional who never had to fight to get to a polling place. My Catholic guilt is engaged as I think about people who marched through the streets of Cairo and Tehran and Baghdad, courageously saying, "We are here." And I think of my father in Hattiesburg, telling those little, white children with the dirty mouths, "I am here."

So, I'm voting this year. Not for him, and not for her. Both are so soiled and damaged as candidates that billions of Hail Marys would not wipe the stain from my soul if I supported either one. But I am voting, for an as-yet undetermined person whose name will be written in that space left open for me by my father, and those who went before.

And, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee by even considering staying home.

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© 2016 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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