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Essays on Civic Engagement

This Is Your Democracy

Voting Against the Absence of My Father

Jaseth Beason Belchertown

When I was a child, voting was a little confusing to me. I usually asked my parents why voting was important. My mother would say to me, “Voting is a choice,” and it had something to do with the future. Voting helps determine how our communities and country are governed. 

I grew up in a Labour Rights household because of the benefits my parents saw in the neighborhoods. And the main reason why they preferred the Labour Party at that time is that they had a program called the “farm-work programme,” where men got the opportunity to go overseas and work to provide for their families. The Jamaica Labour Party provided an opportunity for my dad to travel aboard to work. He went to Florida to a sugar cane plantation where he spent nine months out of each year.

One of the advantages of my father’s work abroad was, in my community, our home was the first to have a television set and a refrigerator. So everyone in the community including relatives wanted to be at our house every Saturday and Sunday evening to watch Charles Bronson movies and the MacGyver series movies. It was a pleasure to see such happiness and loving kindness among everyone in the living room. In our day, I would say, the great Charles Bronson on our black-and-white TV, brought families together. Though it might seem simple now, as a child, it was an amazing experience to have such a good feeling. These gatherings at my home to watch our black-and-white TV, lasted about three months every year and we enjoyed every bit of it.

The disadvantage of this program was not having my father around all year long. We knew that at a certain time of the year when word started to go around in the community stating “Telegram a run fi the man them fi guh back a foreign”, our families would get worried. Kids knew they would not see their dads for about nine months; mothers and wives knew they would have to carry the family burden by themselves while missing their husbands. 

Can you imagine taking care of ten children all by yourself? This is exactly what my mom did.

After nine months of hard work, my dad would be home for Christmas. My family was overjoyed and excited when my dad came back home. 

This bittersweet relationship continued for eight years or more. During that time my mom struggled to provide sufficient parental care for all ten children. It was very difficult for her and the family. I remember seeing my mother in treacherous pain and anxiety because she was trying to keep up with so many kids. My mother was the strongest woman I ever knew.  `

We faced a lot of hard times during the time my father was away. We carried scowls on our faces and we believed that God had forsaken us in our time of need. This voting thing had good and bad experiences wrapped in one: most families focused on the good of being provided for, whereas others would rather have had a family structure. There were mixed feelings, but little to be done about it. We waited to see the result of this farm-work business.

As a family, we faced challenges after challenges, disappointment, heartbreak, sickness, rejection because my father wasn’t around to defend us from the community. After nine months of hard work, my dad would be home for Christmas. My family was overjoyed and excited when my dad came back home.

As time went by, my dad had an accident on the farm: he fell and damaged his hip bone. He got sent home from the program without help for about five to seven months of sickness. My dad passed away as a result of this incident when I was a young adult. I was devastated, knowing that he never recovered from that incident. A part of my hurt was that the death of my father was a result of the community voting for a farm-work opportunity. It was all about which mayor or senator had the connection for overseas jobs. 

Meanwhile families back home suffer and struggle to make two ends meet when the breadwinner of the family dies. I felt like my childhood was a nightmare. When I talk about my past life I still hurt a lot. Mainly because of the way people choose to use people’s right to vote. 

My life experience changed my perspective on voting in Jamaica. Exercising one’s right to vote was very important. My parents believed that voting for the right political party would land them closer towards their dream of being financially stable. We had many different political parties, but the two popular ones are the People National Party ( PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). They used the bright orange color to represent the PNP, and the color green to represent JLP. It was a pleasure to gather together to discuss political affiliations with companions, relatives, and friends. They would talk about the benefits and purpose of each politician representing their values and their plan to make the communities better. They would encourage each adult to vote for many different reasons to see who is the best fit to represent the communities at large.

I voted in Jamaica a few times. Ask me the reason why I vote, and honestly I don’t know. I just do it because they say “go vote.” Anyway, my first time voting was when I walked for two miles  to the polling station and I could see people standing around waiting to see others come to vote. People shouted my name, and said “Make sure you put the X beside the bell, so the bell represents the Jamaica Labour Party.” At that moment, when I thought about voting I thought to myself that I was voting against the absence of my father. Apparently, I grew up without a father figure at my home. It’s like having a gift for the Christmas and it serving until New Year

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