Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Voting in Two Different Countries

Yesterday, as the world watched the American presidential elections and having already cast my absentee ballot, I began preparing myself to vote in the Italian Primaries on November 25th.  It was uncanny that I was juggling thoughts of voting in two different countries on the very same day. 

This will be the first time since receiving my dual citizenship that I’ll have the opportunity to vote as an Italian citizen. After all the complex steps I’ve taken to establish myself as a citizen, resident and community member, when I step into my local electoral office to vote, I will truly feel arrived. I’m proud to have the privilege of being able to vote for the leaders of the two greatest countries in the world.

When I first received my jure sanguinis Italian citizenship and Florentine residency in 2009, I expected to steer clear of Italian politics, given its complexity and my lack of first-hand knowledge. I certainly didn’t expect that I would be as enthusiastic to vote as I am now.

Over the past few years, my relationship with Florence has become precious like a friend. Thus, I have become engaged with social, economic and political issues, eager to understand the forces that drive the vitality of my city and the country of my roots.  Here I feel more involved and connected with city politics than I ever did during a lifetime in the U.S. perhaps because in spite of the complexities of the Italian political scene, the feeling of community is so much tighter here, where I feel like a member and not a number.

I’m not jaded yet and doubt I will ever because I think so differently than I ever did before and have eliminated expectations from my life.  I’ve embraced and am fully committed to my future here and equally invested in preserving the integrity of Florence and Italy.  Having a voice and a right to vote is more important to me now than it ever was before because I feel like a valuable member of this big crazy family called Italy.

I’ve actually been surprised that many Fiorentini and Italians don’t get politically involved beyond musings on the communal level. I have kept my opinions to myself and my blood pressure from bursting, although this attitude is contrary to my New York City breeding. Hence, I’ve developed some strong political inclinations and am thirsty to express them. I'll have the opportunity to do so at the polls on November 25th.

Other than what I read and hear around me, I’m ignorant of the system and have a lot to learn. But I sure know my gut. I know which candidates I like and who I despise. For me, this is enough.

Today I visited my local Arco Circoli to register to vote. They asked me for my voting card, which I do not have. I thought all I needed was my Carta d’IdentitĂ . They told me that I should have received my voting card when I first got my residency in 2009. Of course I never received it. So now it is a mad rush for me to get this card subito, in order to vote by the 25th.

Learning all these new ways of living is so exciting. There is no book written on the subject of how to navigate the voting system as a new citizen.  So like everything else, I continue to pioneer my new-founded territory, an adventure of somewhat solitary but intimate self-discovery that has been endlessly rewarding.

I know that when I have my voting card in my hand, it will feel like a treasure that I've waited a lifetime to earn.