Monday, October 31, 2016

Voting in the Election. Private. Public. Priceless.

“Interdependence is a fact. Not an opinion.”                         --Peter Coyote

What’s the big deal if I want to sit in the privacy of my own house, light up a marijuana cigarette, and just get stoned?  Who is it really hurting?  What difference does my one personal choice really make for the rest of the world?

Those are some of the questions asking for an answer, on ballot Question 4, come next Tuesday, when Massachusetts voters will decide whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana. Now before you conclude that I’m a “No” vote or a “Yes” vote, think again. My vote is my private choice, your private choice too, on this and many other important issues and races. 

Who will be our President for the next four years?  Will kids have access to more charter schools or will public schools retain their level of funding? Is it time to build more gambling facilities in Massachusetts or is enough, enough? Do farm animals need better living conditions or is this instead government regulatory overreach? 

I decide. Choose. Yes. No. Hillary. Donald.

There is something so powerful about the fact that when we as citizens cast a ballot, we do so alone, on our own. No one looking over our shoulders to make sure we vote the “right” way.  No one forcing us to vote for just one political party, as in so many other not so free nations in the world.  Many years ago I was in Guatemala on their national election day and when I returned to my hotel, a voting location, I had to walk by a tank parked by the main entrance. It was the government’s way of intimidating its own citizens.  On November 8th, other than having to run a gauntlet of folks holding signs for their candidate or issue, I will walk into my polling place free and unfettered, confident in the legitimacy of my one vote.   

My vote is my vote.

Yet there is a community aspect to my vote too and I think voters can easily forget this truth. We decide that voting is just about “me”: my rights, my life, my freedom alone. That’s wrong.  How I vote, if I vote, is also about “we”.  I vote in independence but my vote is also about interdependence, the fact that we are all in this construct called democracy together. Who is the best leader for all of America, not just for some of our nation? Is it Clinton or Trump? Or what will it mean for our schools, the safety of our roads, the quality of our life in the Bay State, if pot becomes legal? Will that make Massachusetts a better place to live?  Contribute to building up the common good?

It might seem obvious to state but how we vote matters. It matters. How we vote will change my life, your life and just as important, change our life in community. On November 9th the nation and state will be a very different place for all of us, because of how we collectively vote. 

So my vote is also our vote.

A vote is not just personal. A vote is communal. The best vote balances private rights with public responsibilities to our neighbors.  The best vote decides not just for this generation but the next generation as well.  We vote on behalf of the young, our children, and the world we will one day hand over to them. The best vote always remembers that freedom is not just about doing whatever I want. Freedom also entails thoughtful, compassionate consideration about how my individual actions ripple outward into the wider world, for the good, for the bad, for sure. 

That’s what my faith teaches me. Interdependence. I need you and you need me and we all need each other. The body politic is like a human body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you” nor can the heart say to the brain, “I’m going to go it alone”.  Voting is one of the few nationwide experiences we still share with each other.  It’s exciting. It’s important. Voting makes a difference, for me in my self contained little home, and for all of us in the neighborhood called the United States of America.

So here is my official endorsement for November 8th.  Vote as if your one individual life depends upon it.  Vote as if our interdependent life depends upon it too.

Now get out and vote!




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