Politics and dating. While you probably have thought a lot about politics lately, I’m guessing you haven’t thought much about dating and politics at the same time. I know I hadn’t. Until this morning. But, I’ll tell you what…

This nation has been a hotbed of political controversy since the beginning. Fighting for freedoms of all types both within our great nation and around the world. Men and women of the armed forces have defended our great nation from whatever internal or external foe has, or will come our way. In my 58 years, though, I don’t recall presidential politics ever being so polarized and heated as now.

Last year, as with every presidential election season, there were televised debates, news articles available online and in newsprint and on t.v., there were water cooler conversations and pamphlets and staffers calling to gain our support. There was every opportunity to learn and read and study and contemplate and, when it came time to vote, make an informed decision. By ballot time, there were two primary candidates – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Oh, sure, there were a bunch of other names you could vote for in the presidential race, but …

But what?  But this.

I recently got back into the dating world and met an amazing man online.  We had our first date yesterday and it was stellar! There were no red flags and we had already talked about so many subjects that I couldn’t fathom a topic that would be problematic. As we were ending the date, I made some offhand, smartass comment (as I am wont to do from time to time), and then quickly checked myself, apologized and asked if he voted for Hillary or Trump. We talked only briefly about it and I learned he was a Republican that didn’t always vote party lines. He asked for whom I voted and, in the moment, I couldn’t remember the guys’ name and I said I couldn’t. (I’ve since learned he thought I was still joking around with him. *lesson one*) The entire conversation couldn’t have lasted more than 90 seconds, if that.

We texted a bit later in the evening and he again asked for whom I voted and I replied Johnson, which I finally remembered.

This morning, I got a text asking again for the name of the person I voted for (he was still thinking I was being sarcastic and/or avoiding the question). I looked up the ticket and explained I had voted for Gary Johnson because I didn’t like Hillary’s dishonesty and Trump’s brashness scared me. Over the course of two additional texts from him, I got schooled, and deservedly so, from a man who is extremely devoted to this country and all it stands for. He’s worked on Capitol Hill, would have fought for this country had he been able to, was a political science major and is a staunch Trump supporter.

He shared his political and educational history, his adamant belief that Trump is exactly what this country needs and his willingness to pick up a rifle to defend this country in order to protect his family’s future. He was also adamant that he isn’t willing to defend people who don’t take democracy seriously. He wrote about throwing your vote away by not voting for Trump or Clinton – the only two real choices we had.

He closed by saying that he did enjoy our time to that point, but democracy and this country are so deeply ingrained in his thinking and how he lives his life, he just couldn’t live with someone who was at least as passionate and shared the same beliefs.

He also fully supported my right to vote how I felt called to do so and then pointed out that I hadn’t really voted at al.

After I read his words a few times and really accepted what he was saying (*lesson two*) I realized he was absolutely right. Without doing hardly any research, though. I cast my vote for … nothing. I didn’t support a candidate, I didn’t take my duty as a U.S. citizen seriously at all! I watched a few news broadcasts (well, parts of a few) and I read a couple of articles online (most of about 4 medium-length articles) and I made an ill-informed decision that I was going to vote for someone that had NO chance of winning. My vote took NOTHING away from either of the major party candidates. My vote had NO impact on the outcome of the election. I DID NOTHING.

Here’s *lesson three* — I missed out on what could have been an absolutely amazing relationship if I had just taken my duty as an American citizen seriously. If I hadn’t treated my vote as a follow-the-sheep or an I’m-too-lazy-to-care-enough proposition, I would have voted for Trump or Clinton. I would have voted for one of the only two people who would actually win the election. I would have cast my vote based on an actual love of country, a deeply researched knowledge base, an understanding of where the country was and where it needed to go. I would have cast a vote that mattered. I would now be able to legitimately bitch about the outcome if I were unhappy with it. And I might still be in the early stages of building an amazing relationship with a man that is so passionate about his country and his life in general.

*lesson four* … from the bottom of my heart, here’s what I wish for me and this entire United States of America. Stop throwing your rights and privileges away. Don’t let other people tell you how to vote. Do your own research from verified news sources. Take the time to understand why America is such a great nation and why every single legal citizen has a responsibility to make an informed decision. Cast a vote that can make a legitimate difference because you did your homework.

Finally, *lesson five* … opposition can a good thing. Abraham Lincoln opposed slavery. Rosa Parks opposed segregation. But, opposition that is destructive and causes harm  to other people and businesses is futile. Find a constructive way to help effect change if you don’t like the outcome of this or any other election.

Oh, and *lesson five – part two* … if you didn’t vote at all or didn’t vote for someone that could actually win, you/we/I haven’t earned the right to bitch about anything that happens because Trump was elected.

P.S. Want to know who I should have voted for? Donald Trup.  Now, I’m going to learn more about the 45th President of the United States. For areas I oppose, I will find constructive ways to affect change. For areas I support, I will do so. And, I will continue to search for the man of my dreams that shares a similar political viewpoint as I do. I will not lose another great man because of my lack of concern about the country that affords me the freedoms and privileges that I have thanks to the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, husbands and boyfriends of people all around me.

P.P.S. And, J.S., if you ever happen to see this, I dedicate it you and your profound love of country. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for teaching me what I should have learned years ago. I will always be grateful.