The presidential debates are finally over. The home stretch of the interminable campaign season is coming to an end, too. And I have already attended two trainings for working the polls this election.
When I was a child, I used to think this was one of the most exciting times of the year. I'd spend many an evening or afternoon at some candidate's headquarters, stuffing envelopes or making phone calls to arrange for folks to get a ride to the polls. And I couldn't wait for election night when we'd go down to the town hall and wait for the clerk to step up to the podium and announce the results. Then we'd head out to the parties, and celebrate victory upon victory.
Ahhh... the days of being a Republican child in New Hampshire.
Today, I wouldn't be caught dead dancing and drinking with the Republican Party. And I'm not much of a fan of the Democratic Party either. In fact, I can't say as I really like either of the two major parties much. And there simply isn't a big shindig on Election Night for those of us who have chosen to be a No Party Affiliation voter. So, I just go home, prop my feet up, and hope that the best person wins.
For me, the best person is the one who recognizes that equality is a good thing for everyone. The best person is the candidate who knows that the services we have come to expect (utilities, roads, schools, etc.) require a source of income to pay for them, and they know that this is a shared burden, not just something for the "little people" to take care of while the wealthy play golf. The best person, in the words of the prophet Amos, "Hates evil, loves good, and seeks to establish justice in the gate."
Such people running for public office in this country are far and few between. Sometimes, you can find them on the local level. But quite often, the more power the office has, the more egomanical the candidates are who are running for that seat. Complicating this mix is the yo-yo mentality of the American voting public who don't want their candidates to tell them the truth, but then get incensed when they lie. Or vice versa.
For me, party affiliation has little effect on whether I will vote for one candidate against another. But increasingly, I have looked at the Republican Party and the candidates it puts forward as if it were some alien creature or a wolf baring its fangs and growling, ready to pounce and tear me to shreds. This is not the party I knew when I was in my youth nor is it the party of my parents generation or even resembling the party of Lincoln. They have ascribed to beliefs in their party platform that are antithetical to my own worldview that we're all in this soup together, and have a responsibility to one another. They have become more like the biblical character Cain, filled with rage and envy toward anyone or anything that is "other" to the point where they would be willing to kill, if not literally at least figuratively, a perceived enemy in an effort to promote themselves. They are not alone in this fear-driven mentality. There are Democrats who I will not vote for in this election because they, too, have taken to growling and snapping and debasing whole groups of people. And I am fed up with the fear factor.
Some people I've seen on Facebook are asking that their current friends and family "de-friend" them if they plan to vote for Mitt Romney for President. I have not, and will not, go that far. Again, my own worldview is that we are all in this soup together: Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Liberal. There are people I know on Facebook who are ardent supporters of Romney and have gone so far as to say they are "praying" for the President to lose. Rather than flee from these folks, or "block" them from showing up on my wall, I take it as a challenge to offer up a prayer in hopes that President will win re-election, and my rights as an LGBT American will be protected... and perhaps one day... fully-realized. God, I believe, is hearing all of our prayers equally. There are no favorites in God's realm.
But I would be lying if I said that it doesn't sting me at some level when I see who is touting their support for Romney or other Republicans in light of the party's platform. Do these friends not know that the Republican Party stands in opposition to marriage equality? If they do know that, then what are they really saying to me and the hundreds of thousands like me? Can they really embrace me and my partner as friends while supporting a system of separate and not-equal which punishes us for falling in love with someone of the same gender? And, if in considering those facts they still side with the forces that stand in the way of equality, then are we really friends? Are we really family? What type of person sells out another's right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?
We are all in this soup together. And if we can not live in that bowl together, we are in a deeper crisis than we think.
So, more than party affiliation, more than campaign slogans and soundbites and commercials, the question comes back to what do we value? Ourselves only, or ourselves in the context of a greater community? Do we intend to stick together or are we going to tear each other apart? Are we willing to sell out the rights of a sexual minority at the polls?
Seriously. What do you value with your vote?