Sunday, November 9, 2008

Alaskan Kids Voting

I helped at my youngest's elementary school with KIDS VOTING, and it was very eye-opening to me. As a naturalized citizen, I take voting very seriously.

KIDS VOTING helps prepare kids for the responsibility of citizenship in a democracy, which is great. At a young age they're still completely influenced by their parents, and since we live up here in Alaska (Republican-Palin land), I fully expected the outcome of KIDS VOTING to be for McCain-Palin.

I'm a strong Obama supporter, but my state, alas, voted red, as expected. BUT SURPRISE: Kids voting over the entire Anchorage school district preferred Obama 49% over 44% for McCain, whereas the "real" adult voters voted 61% for McCain-Palin, and only 36% voted for Obama Alaska-wide. The Anchorage Daily News has a red-blue breakdown for how Alaskan precincts voted in the Senate race (convict Ted Stevens vs. Mark Begich). I found it interesting how wealthier South Anchorage voted solidly for Ted, while North Anchorage went blue for Begich. Wealthy Eagle River, of course, voted for the convict too, as did the Mat-Su Valley. But Fairbanks and the majority of the North Slope and Western Alaska voted blue.

Why the discrepancy between Kids Voting for Obama vs Alaska grown-ups going for McCain? I attribute it to younger families (with school-aged children, with some of the most fecund living in North Anchorage) voting more Democratic compared to their older Alaskan neighbors who look out mostly for themselves and their money ("Kids left home, so why do I need to support things like families or education...?").

By the way, did you know that GOP ("Grand Old Party", the nickname for the Republican Party) if spelled backwards is POG, which may well stand for "Party of Greed" -- the economic disaster that the Republican administration have led this country into. See the New York Times article entitled Greed helped Wall Street dive into danger:
But the larger failure, they say, was human — in how the risk models were applied, understood and managed. Some respected quantitative finance analysts... had begun pointing to warning signs years ago. But while markets were booming, the incentives on Wall Street were to keep chasing profits by trading more and more sophisticated securities, piling on more debt and making larger and larger bets... "Innovation can be a dangerous game," said Andrew Lo, and economist at MIT. "The technology got ahead of our ability to use it in responsible ways."

After Obama was elected, my daughter reported some rather mean-spirited language bordering on racist talk on the school bus (I have to add that this is a VERY white area -- there are few blacks in her school). It's crazy what some of those kids are saying, and I know they're just repeating what they hear at home from their parents! After discussing this at home, with input from our older daughter in college, I realized I needed to say something, and brought it to the principal's attention.
I'm glad I did -- and the principal did feel the issue deserved serious attention at the school. It doesn't matter if all the children on a bus are white, it's not OK!!! And other parents had called and complained. Apparently there was a lot uglier talk than what I had heard. The principal plans to deal with this more during the coming week -- the children will hopefully take this to heart, and even if it does not do much to change their parents, will change their emerging sense of right and wrong.
After the ground-breaking election of the first African-American president, this little incident (the fact that educators are coming down hard on this: not tolerating racist talk and re-directing the dialogue), gives me hope, even for wayward Alaska!

I remember talking with my brother-in-law in Germany this past summer (and some 90% of Germans would have voted for Obama, if they could!), and back then he predicted "No way will Americans elect Obama -- they are way too racist!" Well, I'm so glad he was proved wrong.
I'm proud of my adopted country, finally, and feel I can once again hold my head up high when my family and I visit abroad and say I'm American!

Photo Credit for Kids Voting: Jill Fankhauser, Alaska Star
Photo Credit for School Bus: Anchorage School District

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