By Elena Mackey
Crap. That’s what I thought the first time I had to vote. As I held the ballot in my hands, I realized the years of not caring about anything political had come back to bite me in the butt. I didn’t recognize any of the names on the many sheets of paper I was holding. I thought of calling my parents to tell me what to do. Yet the shame due to my lack of knowledge stopped me. I had requested a mail-in ballot since I was at college, away from my home state. My ballot never made it out of my dorm room. It sat in the drawer of random stuff until eventually I threw it away, completely blank. If the question ever arose, I would say I had simply forgotten to send in my ballot. No one needed to know I was unable to form my own political opinions.
These days, it’s hard to stay away from politics, especially in the US. For those involved, you stand with your country because it is your home. But what if you don’t know where to call home? I am one of the thousands of TCKs in the world who doesn’t know where to call home, which country to stand for, how to be involved in politics, or whether we even have the right.
My ballot never made it out of my dorm room.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic (the D.R.), all I knew of politics was there never seemed to be a good-enough president, and elections meant political parties parading in the streets. As foreigners, my parents weren’t allowed to vote. As missionaries, they didn’t want to risk taking a side. So, if they had opinions, they kept them to themselves. We didn’t have cable, so I never saw the news, and all I ever knew were the things I heard from my friends or on the streets.
Years ago, when I was in fifth grade, we happened to be on home assignment in the US during an election season. I was young, living my life in bliss, unaware of politics. My parents took me with them to fill out their ballots. All I remember was getting the sticker that says, “I Voted!” It is still stuck to the back of my notebook, which has served many different purposes yet remains too empty to get rid of.
As I grew older, I tried to pay attention to the events of the world. I knew I should care and be informed about what was going on in my country, whether that meant the US or the D.R. I never found the will to do my research but was pleased whenever I stumbled upon some information. I felt proud and mature anytime I could join a conversation on politics.
The summer after I graduated high school, I lived and worked in Minnesota in preparation for college in the fall. I knew the elections were coming up. My parents encouraged me to watch the news and do research. But I just didn’t care. I listened if someone was watching the news or talking about the coming election but never of my own accord. I knew I didn’t like my options, but I registered to vote anyway, even if just to make my parents happy. As you know, my vote never made it in, and I couldn’t have cared less. Even now, I have no opinion on the current president except that he’s old. I can speculate, but I won’t form an opinion if I am uninformed on the matter.
What truly took me by surprise was the politics I faced amidst COVID-19. I was still in the D.R. when the pandemic started. To me, it was an illness to avoid and a cause for quarantine. When I spoke of it with my Dominican friends and their families, we would discuss the devastation. No one liked masks or restrictions, but it was better than watching people die.
When the Dominican government made the use of masks mandatory, everyone obeyed. Sure, people didn’t like it. It was especially not ideal in the tropical heat, but the government told them to do it, so they did. In the US there have been riots against the use of masks. To some Americans being required to wear a mask is an infringement of their human rights. This makes no sense whatsoever to me. The Dominican part of me wonders why something that seems so insignificant in the bigger scheme of things needs to be political. As a TCK and as a Christian, I wonder why people cannot be flexible or considerate of who else their arguments affect. In the D.R. people don’t want to get vaccinated because either they are afraid, or they just don’t want to. In the US it’s a political stance whether you get vaccinated or not. However, I cannot attribute my ideals or stance to where I come from or who I claim to be. There are too many moving parts for me to pick one side. I stay away from American politics because I do not want to be grouped with those “crazy gringos” in the eyes of my Dominican friends.
There are too many moving parts for me to pick one side
Yet, I can’t escape the culture of my parents. Growing up, in Dominican history classes we studied countless instances where the US would swoop in and intervene in a country across the sea, including the D.R. I developed the view of my classmates saying, “Gringos are metiches” (Americans are nosy). Even now, when I see that the US is “aiding” another country or I hear Americans talking of another country in trouble, I can’t help but scoff a bit. The Dominican pride in me wants to tell the US to stay out of other countries’ business when there’s no way they can understand what is truly going on. Yet I’ve come to realize my grudge against this apparent interference is childish. Each time the US steps in, perhaps there’s more to it than just a country thinking they can fix everyone else. Take away the political aspect and maybe all I will see is one people group helping another.
The same reasons I have for staying away from politics should be the reasons I want to step in. I dislike the ignorance people have concerning cultures which aren’t their own. Am I not someone in the perfect position to be a bridge between those cultures? TCKs have the gift of knowing various parts of different cultures. We see the deepest values of a people group and we understand because we hold a piece of them in our hearts. Why is it that we stay away from politics? As TCKs we are in the unique position to be able to cross and breach borders in a way no one else can. We should be out there as loud as anyone else.
Politics isn’t fun, and I still don’t like the thought of having to watch the news. But politics is a big part of the world—we can’t escape it.
Truly, I must believe it doesn’t matter where I came from or where my heart finds its home. My voice is unique, and the world needs to hear it. I see things in a way my one-cultured friends don’t. I even see things differently from other TCKs, as each of us have our own unique experiences and stories. The unique perspective on life we’ve been given is a gift.
At least for those of us in the US, we don’t need to assure people that legally our opinion should matter because we have citizenship. Our voices matter, and that’s why we should be on the front lines like anyone else. Maybe one day I, among others, can step into this political world, making our stories as loud as they are complex.
Elena Mackey was adopted from Colombia by American parents. She’s lived in the United States, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic, but the D.R. is and always will be her home. She is twenty and living in Virginia while attending Liberty University, pursuing majors in writing and psychology. wtwbs.com