Every Election Day growing up, my parents would meet at Town Hall and vote together. They always made a plan for this. For much of my childhood, my dad worked evenings at the elementary school about a mile from Town Hall, so he would take a break at work and meet my mom after she finished her school bus runs. They would go inside and vote, taking my younger sister and I inside when we were really young or leaving us to wait in the car when we were a bit older. But they would always go together. It’s something I always took for granted: that you vote and that it’s an event important enough that you do it together.
My desire to be informed and be part of the community comes from my parents too. They are civic-minded, in many ways. My dad was a volunteer firefighter for most of my life and chief of the department for several years. My mom has been on the board of education for our high school for something like twenty or thirty years. That means every three years, her name is on the voting ballot. They’ve always been well-known and well-respected for the ways they have given back and they ways they have fought to make our community a better, safer place in which to live.
I know that that is at the core of politics: finding ways to make our communities better, safer places in which to live for everyone.
We just disagree on the ways we make that happen, the priorities and the methods. And it’s wild out there on the Internet — so much lobbying and activist-ing and general opinion-spouting, much of it disrespectful and ugly. In my graduate classes, we talk about the benefits and dangers of social media in the election: the democratizing effect of giving everyone a voice and a platform; the ease with which we can share information — both true and untrue; the ways we can opine, somewhat anonymously, or at least without having to look each other in the face as we declare our feelings about this issue or that group of people. It’s overwhelming.
I know who I’m voting for. Absolutely, no doubt, I have known for months. Many of my reasons have to do with policies and platforms I wholeheartedly agree with. I’m much more liberal than conservative. I like to say I’m a Christian and a liberal in that order, and among many other things. And these two parts of me do not create much inner conflict, but rather help me understand my beliefs in real, practical terms. That’s what politics is after all — in my very unofficial definition — putting into real practice the ways we think government should protect and support the people.
So there are policy reasons for my vote, and then there are personal, relational reasons… So often in America, we take our freedom of speech for granted. We are free to criticize our leaders, often at the expense of respecting them. I grew up in a family where we stood every time an American flag passed by in a parade and in a school where we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. I was taught to respect my country and its symbols and its leaders. I want to respect the president of my country. And personally, I cannot respect a person whose treatment of women and minorities is so offensive, who wants to obstruct refugees and expel immigrants, who exploits people’s fears and normalizes hatred, whose language is volatile and oppressive and dangerous. It’s so far from my values as a Christian, a woman, and a human. I’m so angry and shocked and devastated for the state of our country when a person like this is so supported.
So I will vote. I will show up and cast my ballot, knowing that it is important for me to participate in big ways and small ways in creating the kind of society I think is better for all of us. And on Tuesday night, I hope to watch in awe as our country elects the first female president because this is no small thing to me. I will watch with tears in my eyes, knowing it’s one step closer to a country of equality and understanding and wide open arms, a country that gives and volunteers and makes the world better and safer for all people.