Wednesday, November 03, 2010

and a note on voting and political parties

I can't help myself today. This is not a political blog and I'm actually not a very political person, even though I grew up in a home where both parents, particularly my mother, were extremely interested in and involved with state politics. Maybe the early, heavy, exposure to it is what pushed me away, but on some level I just think the whole thing is a distraction to living a meaningful good life.

Yesterday my husband came home, picked me up, and we drove together to our polling place - the small activity room of a country church. I actually love this as a polling place because it reminds me the moment we drive up that we are part of a community of people - all the people who live around us - not just Republicans or Democrats. They all live and work and breathe and shop and hopefully find some time to play. They all experience difficulties in budgeting, parenting, aging, communicating. They are all human.

My human-ness kicked right in - I immediately balked when I saw there was a line. This has never happened since we moved to the farm, and I've enjoyed the years of waltzing in, voting, and waltzing back out again. But there we were.

A young black woman in front of me turned to ask if I knew who I was voting for - was I going to vote Republican? I said I would likely vote for some of each, depending on what I knew about the candidates.

It wasn't clear to me whether she was voting one way or the other, and in fact, neither of us ever said we "were" one party or the other - but we spent about 15 minutes talking about what we knew about the candidates and the issues. She talked about her views on a referendum issue on the ballot, and I told her what I knew of several candidates I particularly wanted to support. We bemoaned the fact that we simply didn't know much about some of the candidates, and we made time for a few jokes (husband leaned on the voting machine at one point and I envisioned something going wrong and the entire network news descending on us) and about a traffic stop we'd encountered in our community a few weeks ago in which the young officer made reference to gangbangers (I think he was having wishful thinking - it is so quiet here).

Then I realized that one of our neighbors was working behind the table and she saw us and asked how we're doing. I told her we have new neighbors with horses coming soon and she was excited to hear this and asked me to call her later in the week and fill her in.

Although I'd started out grumpy about standing in line, I ended up feeling reassured that what we do when we vote is more than throw our support behind a Democrat or a Republican. We mingle with other members of our communities, those people who most share our community's strengths and weaknesses. We might see our neighbors, we might meet new ones. We can use our vote to support candidates we truly want to see in office, or we can use the vote to encourage party diversity in what is a (to me) boring two-party system, neither of which generally represent my individual views.

For me, voting is not a duty. It's a right. And it is a choice. I have purposely NOT voted at times because I didn't want to vote for any of the candidates. I don't think there's any special virtue in marching obediently to the polls, voting randomly because you don't really know enough to make a thoughtful vote. There are many ways to express the right to vote - and I honor and celebrate all of them.

I also want to express my disgust for members of BOTH major parties who refer to the other side as stupid, ignorant, and whatever other negative adjectives get thrown about. What makes this country what it is? The fact that we all have the right and the safety to express our political views. Whatever they might be. We have the right as people to have a different point of view. We come to our points of view from many different places and experiences. We believe what we believe because it's psychologically comfortable for us to believe it. And there is a bigger picture to all this - we're all part of a bigger society - which grows and changes and goes through stages just as we individuals do. There's no way for us to see how the big pattern is shifting - but part of being on the earth is living through this shifting, changing community of humans who are all in different stages.

The best way to be a good citizen is to live your daily life with consideration and integrity. It's not about how many times you vote or how many people you called or whether you made signs for one party or another. Find concrete ways to make things better in your neighborhood, your family, your community - on a daily basis. Those small gestures are more powerful than anything else you do.

(and if you disagree with me, that's okay - I'm not here to debate or generate discussion - feel free to say what you like, but I won't be responding to comments on this post - I just wanted to write this today after experiencing the chat on Facebook yesterday - at some point I think it pushed me over the edge!)


Grey Horse Matters said...

Very thoughtful and well said.

Kyle said...

Thank you for sharing this, Billie. And yes, the drivel Facebook can be ... edge-defining.