Voting My Conscience


“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” –John Quincy Adams [Tweet It]

Everyone realizes, I had always hoped, that politics are more complicated than slogans and speeches and campaign promises.  My cynicism has started getting the better of me, though, as the US Presidential election grinds on and everyone keeps treating it like the most important event in the history of our country.  Both major political parties are delivering similar messages on most ‘issues,’ from foreign policy to domestic energy (with a few notable exceptions), and four years of Democratic rule in the White House has resulted in very little change from the previous eight.  I strongarm my partner into sitting next to me while I livestream all the debates (no cable), tweeting and shouting at the television screen when either candidate dares to say something more ridiculous than the last ridiculous thing his opponent dared to say — and what is the point?  We’re having the same conversation we had last time we fought over who should be in charge (with a few notable exceptions), we’re faced with the same choice between Big Red and Big Blue, and both sides have given up convincing us that they are best in lieu of convincing us that really the other guy is worst.  Is this all?  Is this really the best we can do?

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

Sometimes I feel as if America is living an unexamined life on a national, subliminal scale.  We are too caught up in the drama of our national life unfolding before us, splashed across 24 hour TV news networks, streamed to our iDevices on demand (for those who have them), shared and rehashed all over social media, to pause long enough to dig deeply in search of meaning.  While each of us is willing, on different levels and with different amounts of effort, to dig deeply into the events and relationships that make up our individual, visceral surroundings, we are also willing to neglect the same events and relationships that shape the character of our country.  These slide by, quicksilver sharp and too slippery to catch, and the cycle never seems to slow down long enough to give those few citizens interested in starting these urgently needed conversations space to draw breath.

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” – John Adams [Tweet It]

Which conversations are needed?  How can we fix what is broken, recover what is best, repair what has been damaged, and build in enough resilience to help the system last for another 250 years?  Most people, and certainly all political parties (most especially the Big Two), have their opinions and strong feelings about this, but my answer is nonpartisan — all of them.  We need to have all of the conversations, not only those allowed by the few powerful gatekeepers who police our politics.  We need to acknowledge several different perspectives, to make space for the voices of minorities and women (or really anyone who isn’t middle-aged, white, and male), to look at vitally important issues (such as climate change or poverty or education or foreign policy) from many angles while respecting the gaps of light that show between our positions.

When the only perspectives the gatekeepers allow to flood the national airwaves are those of Big Red and Big Blue, the only reaction left to many observers is to pick apart their positions, ignore their overwhelming similarities, and squabble over their minute differences.  But when a third, or fourth, or fifth, or five hundredth perspective is allowed to come forward, championed by some passionate groups that coalesce around a common goal or a common cause, suddenly we are not faced with a false and unrealistic black-and-white choice.  Suddenly there are many shades of grey.

“Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”  - William E Simon

When I marked my ballot box next to the name of who I think should fill the office of President of the United States, I chose Green Party candidate Jill Stein — and whenever I mention this in conversation, I’m asked why I wasted my vote.  I’m reminded of the last time an election threatened to switch stewardship of the White House from Big Blue to Big Red, and how a critical minority of voters chose a third party candidate, Ralph Nader, and lost the election for Vice President Gore.  How is it, I wonder, that my voting for someone — actively taking part in my civic duty as a citizen of a democracy — is a hindrance to my country?  How is being willing to commit to the tiny activism that is voting your conscience a waste?

This kind of self-defeating logic rankles me, especially when applied wholesale to bigger-than-us issues like electing a POTUS or coming up with large-scale solutions to larger-than-life problems.  I feel the need to vote my conscience, even if that means taking a vote away from Big Blue in their constant struggle against Big Red and their farther-right base, and I feel that Jill Stein, even though she probably doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Bolivia of winning elected office in this country, is at the very least addressing issues the other candidates refuse to bring up on the campaign trail, and even proposing some solutions that make a kind of historical sense.

As my practice of Druidry pushes me to seek balance and an intimate, holy connection with the Earth, how can I turn away and vote for a candidate that would continue issuing permits for horribly destructive and poisonous practices like deep-sea oil drilling or hydrofracking?  How can I vote for a candidate that flaunts his country’s historical commitment to human rights, by continuing drone attacks overseas that murder civilians by the score or passing a law allowing the imprisonment of any person without due process?  As a growing consciousness of ecology, environmentalism, and climate change dawns not only in my life but in the lives of hundreds of Americans each day, while a frankenstorm batters the East Coast in what feels like an angry reminder to sit up and pay attention to our global crisis, how can I continue to condone the brazen abuse of our environment at the hands of monied interests in Washington?

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” – Ansel Adams [Tweet It]

Simply put, I can’t.  Our discussion has been so narrow, our mainstream discourse so dismissive of third party candidates and their platforms, that most voters don’t even know what questions they’re asking or which solutions they’re offering.  I am almost-enchanted by the idea of Stein’s Green New Deal, which promises to jump-start America’s reaction to the climate crisis while simultaneously dealing with the problems of joblessness, poverty, and crumbling communities (my skepticism gets the better of me, I can’t commit fully to the enchantment).  Her willingness to try for an unconventional solution to an oft-unaddressed problem is more evidence of her worthiness than anything I’ve been shown by the two mainstream offerings, who are so concentrated on politically acceptable answers to difficult questions they have failed to answer any difficult questions at all, let alone address climate at all during any debates.  As far as I’m concerned, she earned my vote.

You may not agree with me — Jill Stein, the Green New Deal, and the Green Party platform may not offer the right answers (or a set of mostly-right possible answers) to our problems.  That’s great — disagree with me.  In fact, that’s the whole point.  Just don’t give in to the status-quo without seeking a few new perspectives.

Mallory Jordan was shaped when she was small by the clay of the creekbed behind her house, by the sloping hills and reaching trees of the forest that housed it, and by the violence of growing up quicker than a sapling. A practicing pagan who isn’t sure where she fits into the nomenclature, she writes, and poets, and philosophizes, and relishes the time she spends making beautiful things appear with her hands. When she gets the chance to peel away from noise and flashing lights and the spider’s web, she dashes off into the woods with the immediate aim of getting lost, finding a creek, and watching the stars. You can find her blogging somewhat intermittently at Courageous Devotion, and tweeting occasionally at @emjayecks.

Photo Credit: (CC) Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko (source)

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>