This morning I decided to take my son Tate to the polling place to vote with me. As we drove up to the polls I recalled that all of my early impressions of politics were shaped by my great grandmother Henrietta Castillo and my step-great grandfather Abel Sanchez. She was a very short, fair skinned lady who was the daughter of a Spanish minister. Her husband, who wasn't my blood great grandfather but had been married to her for decades before I was born, was a dark skinned Mexican-American from the area that had transferred to the United States in the Gadsen purchase, an area around Nogales and Tombstone Arizona.
I spent a lot of my childhood with them as my father was stationed overseas and my mother worked. They lived in the barrio around the Santa Fe switchyards in San Bernardino. They were the quintessential Grapes of Wrath people. They didn't have much, but worked hard, and were very impactful in my youth. When I was around 7 years old or so, they would sit down with me and show me all the voter information. They would talk to me about the issues, and would tell me all about politics through the eyes of die hard Roosevelt Democrats. Elections have always made me think of them, and I know that my eternal fascination with politics can be traced back to them.
Over time my politics have migrated from their influence from my campaign work in high school for a conservative Democratic Assemblyman from my hometown, to Green Party organizing work in the early 90s, to Jerry Brown volunteer in 92, to Clintonite Centrist Democrat today. I think that if you are exposed early to politics, its hard to break away from those early influences, much like religion. That's not to say that you don't renounce or move away from either, its more that it becomes a part of the things you think about and consider throughout your life.
It wasn't until later today that this fully occurred to me and I laughed to myself when I thought about Tate at the polling place. We walked in and showed our ID and I turned to him and asked him to tell the lady what we were going to do. He looked at her sheepishly and said 'Vote for John Kerry'.