When I turned 18 in 1974, I was excited to go to the election polls and vote. Public school civics and government classes taught me it was my right and a responsibility to vote.
My dad was active in local politics and usually sported a campaign sign on the lawn. Mom worked the voting polls. Civic duty was important to them because of where their parents came from. My grandparents immigrated in the early 1900s from Prussia. The immigration doors were opened to Eastern Europeans only briefly at that time. Their families split up and came by ship in twos and threes.
They left because their Polish homeland kept losing the fight for freedom from the forces of empires, their culture constantly being usurped, poverty kept the people down. Perhaps they could see the tide of Russian revolution coming, and with it, dictatorships. They were peasant farmers and came to the United States of America for opportunity. Like every immigrant, then and now, they came for the basic liberties we all take for granted — to find decent jobs/careers, live in relative safety, raise families, put their kids through school, and be able to vote for representation in a democratic government.
No system is perfect. The good often fall to despotic corruption and greed. Somehow democracies seem to keep rising strong out of the rubble of too many lives lost to war. Democracy takes work, and yes — vigilance.
Ukraine has fought hard for their independence, for decades if not centuries, from Russian control. With the fall of the USSR in 1991, the people began to see promise. Courage, hard work and constant vigilance got them to now, finally a democratically elected president. Yet their fight for independence continues and we are all affected, every day, on the news and in our conscience, and in the future of world politics.
Democracy can hang by a thread and some political analysts write that today in the U.S. it may be shredding. What can we do? Vote! Be a responsible voter. Research the candidates and issues. Don’t just take the word of a glossy ad paid for by so-and-so political party. Listen to candidate forums, look at their websites, email them with questions. The state website lists candidates who have completed their paperwork to run, their contacts and websites are often listed. Go to https://www.elections.alaska.gov/.
Remember, your vote does count and your voice does matter.
Therese Lewandowski is a member of Kenai Peninsula Votes.