Tuesday, November 06, 2012

why I am not voting this morning

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I’ve never been much for politics. I tend to shy away from controversy, from debates, from disagreements.

I’m no dummy. I have a Mensa card in a drawer somewhere if you want proof. But that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily smart in practical ways.

For one thing, I feel like I need to know all the ins and outs of a political topic in order to discuss it at all. I shouldn’t feel this way. Most people have no problem talking about things they know nothing about. That’s pretty obvious, with all the misinformation and snow jobs blowing around this time of year. Perfect morons seem to be able to make a decision, come down as black-or-white on the issues at hand. Why do I have such trouble?

Partially because I’m an empath. I feel what others around me are feeling. Sometimes this is a blessing, but other times it is a curse. I tend to see both sides of an issue and have feelings about both because I know people on both sides. (I'm even worried about my use of the word "moron" in the previous paragraph.)

This leads to a lot of internal conflict. So much so that the thought of adding external conflict is almost unbearable. I imagine everyone I know, left and right, unfriending me on Facebook, shunning me at church, and excluding me from parties.

It seems people who tout “tolerance” the most have plenty to go around until you disagree with them. Then you get labeled. I don’t do labels. (Ok, now I really regret using "moron.")
Also, I’m not used to discussing politics. Our family didn’t talk much about it growing up. We pretty much knew which presidential candidate our parents voted for. But we never really talked about candidates or issues or even political parties as a family. If we did, it wasn’t memorable.
I had best friends on both sides of the aisle. One friend came from a large Anglican family; her mother was president of the Republican Women’s Club. Another friend came from a larger Catholic family; she wore McGovern/Shriver campaign buttons to school in the second grade. At least I was surrounded by examples of active political women from a young age.

My sphere of political diversity and empathy continues today.

Much of my family and some of my friends are very conservative. Some of them are on the radical right, like “I believe Barack Obama is a Muslim non-citizen who loves to kill babies” radical. But most of them just have strong beliefs in God and country and family, and believe in voting their conscience and their values.

Many of my friends and some of my family are very liberal. Some of them are on the radical left, like “I believe Mitt Romney hates all women/Mexicans/gays/Big Bird/fill-in-the-blank” radical. They also have strong beliefs in God and country and family, and believe in voting their conscience and their values.

So here I am, stuck in the middle again. I have little-to-no patience for people who insist a vote for Romney is a vote for misogyny, discrimination, and the 1%. Just as I have little-to-no patience for people who insist a vote for Obama is a vote for Islam, socialism, and the end of the family.

So what is a sensitive-but-thinking girl to do?

When I feel lost, I go back to basics. I consider our history, the founding of this great experiment of a country. When asked what type of government we had, Ben Franklin cautioned, “A republic…if you can keep it.” Ben was no saint and was considered a lowbrow for thinking ordinary people said anything worth listening to. He was the only person who signed all four founding papers – the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with Great Britain, the treaty with France, and the Constitution. He didn’t agree with everything in each of those documents, but trusted the compromise of “joint wisdom” to be superior to the fallible thoughts of only one mind.

Somehow “joint wisdom” has kept this country going for 236 years, through nearly endless foreign conflicts, a brutal civil war that should have ended the great experiment, and two world wars that could have ended freedom for all forever.

But they didn’t. The experiment continues in spite of our brokenness, our disagreements, our disparity of beliefs.

I find great hope in that. I find hope in the people I love, in the people I meet at church and at Starbucks and at the homeless shelter and at the arts fundraiser. I find hope in this great experiment of a country, in the faith of the founders and of the reformers who risked life and limb so there would be a United States of America and so I as a woman could have a voice in it.

And now to the question of how I could possibly consider not voting this morning. Because this morning my daughter looked at me and said, “Mom, please wait until I get home from school to vote. I want to go with you.”

So I will vote this afternoon. With my daughter by my side, I will enter the poll and cast my vote without regard to who might agree or disagree with my choice. And when we find out the results, either on Wednesday or sometime before January 20, 2013, I will have the same hope as I do today.

Because my hope is not in Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

My hope is in you. 

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