I suppose I should begin this tirade with an admission. Despite the fact that I am in possession of a rather acute British accent, and despite the fact that I am constantly extolling the virtues of my Middle–Eastern background, I am, well, an American. It wasn’t even an accident, you know, like those women who take a transatlantic concord while seven months pregnant and accidentally pop one out on the wrong continent. I was born years ago in a hamlet of the East Coast (hey, D.C.) and am, therefore, a citizen of this fair land. The amalgam of national identities, which are all constituent members of my somewhat convoluted outlook on life, have left me with a funny sense of cultural reference points.
Prior to coming to college, I had never really lived in the U.S., and yet always identified with my American nationality. There was always an idealistic undercurrent to my sense of American nationhood, an idealism intrinsically linked to my right to participate in the democratic process. My father is hugely political, but always encountered frustration because he could never cast a vote. Unlike his children, he was stuck in a post–colonial time–warp, in which the west and its democratic mores represented an escape route from a region of conflict. He's spent the majority of his life in the U.S. and in Europe, but his nationality remains linked to a country he rarely sets foot in. He therefore instilled in me a sense of democratic urgency, one which manifests itself mostly during elections seasons.
Overly fearful of the potential weight my one vote could have, I was nervous but excited when I cast my ballot in 2008 and am burdened with the same enthusiasm facing the imminent midterm elections. I would situate myself along the more active side of the political spectrum, so it was quite the serious affront when I was called “unpatriotic and a general let down to my generation” when I momentarily hesitated when asked to man a Pennsylvania Democrats phone bank last week. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for encouraging people to vote, particularly when apathy seems rampant. However, when asked quite aggressively by an overly–enthusiastic PA Dem to man a telephone, I was hesitant. My reluctance stemmed not from my “busy schedule,” as the voice on the phone arrogantly assumed, but more from the fact that I struggle when asked to explain my voting zeal. It is difficult to explain to others swathed by an apathetic shroud why I feel so passionately about political participation, when I haven’t even lived here extensively. I rarely feel that it is my place to educate others on legislative policies that I had never been in contact with, on a practical level, until three years ago.
Needless to say, the conversation with the Dem ended awkwardly. I told him I’d think about it. He grumbled some more, and I was left feeling — unjustly — like slightly less of a person.
I wish I had told him that things aren’t as black and white as he was would like them to be. I wish I had also told him to cool his beans, Sir, for impatience is not a virtue and neither is harassment. But, I didn't, and instead drowned in self–doubt for all of 13 seconds. Until I realized that this PA Dem was an idiot, my patriotism was intact and all was well with the world again.