Conversation With My Brother and his Girlfriend, Part 2

Yesterday I posted the first part of my conversation with my brother Pawan, and his girlfriend Leslie. Here is the conclusion to our dicussion.

So what could we do to get young people to vote on this issue?

Leslie: Coming from a non-activist perspective, it’s not necessarily something we talk about. If I talked about it too much at school people wouldn’t want to talk to me. But I think that people know it's on the ballot.

Pawan: I’m not an activist-type person either. There just isn’t that much in school right now that pushes me to be one. I think it's something your generation at West [High School] felt that isn’t there as much today. Maybe we should have it, but we don’t really understand the power of activism.

Leslie: I guess in general I don’t think about the issue because I think it’s normal to be gay or lesbian. Does that make sense?

So, it's something you are around but not talking about. The thing is, if we assume that people will vote "No" we may not actually get the people we need out to vote. Could you maybe take some "Pledge to Vote No" petitions to school? That could get conversation going without it being too awkward.

Pawan: That would be easy. I could take pledges to my friends. The issue has not been brought up as much as I guess it should be.

If we can make it important for students and show them how to do everything, they will vote. Since a lot of us are leaving for college, we need to know how to register to vote, where to get an absentee ballot, how fill out a ballot, that sort of thing.

Leslie: We also don’t get general information on how the government works unless you take a specific class on it. People don’t know what it means to vote. We don’t know if the vote means something, everything, or nothing.

Pawan: I just turned 18 and got the right to vote. It’s scary that I can vote and make decisions. I think we forget because no one really gets information to us about voting.

(Turning to Leslie) It’s kind of scary to think about who can vote... like our friends.

With friends, you don’t want to talk about politics. Those conversations become frustrating. We try to avoid the frustration and just hang out.

How was it to talk to people when you canvassed door-to-door? You’d never been out before or really talked about the issue with people. How was it?

Pawan: It was easy and fun because the neighborhood we were in was so supportive. People thanked us for being out; that felt good. We got to meet new people too. And I got more than a $100 at the door. A couple of people didn’t want to talk because they don’t like people coming to their doors, but that was about it. I mean how hard is it to talk to someone at your own doorstep?

Leslie: Yeah. If you took the effort to get to the door, why not just take a second to listen to people.

Pawan: So I guess talking to our own friends wouldn’t be hard. I think it would help to have an example of an e-mail I could send.

That’s a great idea, and soon we will have one available from our website. But sending an e-mail doesn’t always get people to vote. Would it be hard to get your friends who are leaving the state to vote by absentee ballot?

Leslie: Again, if we broke it down for them and if they thought it was important enough.

Did you vote in April?

Pawan: No. I didn’t feel comfortable voting for something I didn’t really know or care about. I know it was the school district, but I wasn’t informed about it. I guess I could have gone out and gotten it but there was no big issue that brought me to want to go that deep.

Leslie: I wasn’t even aware of the elections this past spring, even though my dad is on city council and the school district election affect our lives.

Pawan: You can go your whole life without voting and not think it’s important. It does not feel like it’s something we have to do. I know that sounds off, but it’s true.

Leslie: I think it may come to a point where not enough people care to vote. Then decisions will be made that creates chaos and makes life uneasy. Like I said, more people are concerned with their i-pod then who the next governor will be.

Pawan: People care about presidential elections, because of all the hype. You think it matters—or at least we thought it did in 2004. But we couldn’t vote then and what happened?

Does the ban make you want to vote?

Pawan: Yeah, because it hits home. And I guess it’s like you are saying. We have to talk to our friends to have them feel it.

You know, I remember when a friend of mine was making bad gay comments. I started talking about you and how you work not only for gay issues but for the community overall. The guy listened and changed his opinions. I think it was good for me to share my life with him, but it was helped that I am straight. It’s important for straight people to talk to other straight people, just like it’s important for white people talking to white people about racism. That commonality helps.

So you all are down to go talk to your friends and get them to vote at home?

Both: Yeah if you get us the info we need to talk to people.

You can find information on registering to vote, and voting by absentee ballot here.

Both Pawan and Leslie are graduating seniors at West High School in Madison, WI.

Leslie Golden will be attending University of Minnesota. She is considering psychology for a major. She said that she is not quite excited to go to college yet, but will be when she gets there.

Pawan Benjamin is leaving for Manhattan School of Music in New York City in August. It has not hit him yet, but he is looking forward to doing what his passions are as his schoolwork. Pawan has played the saxophone since he was 10 years old. He will perform in Madison for the summer with the Breakdowns; you should check him out at the Brat Fest, King Club and other joints around town.

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