I will vote soon.
Over two decades now I’ve been teaching history to middle schoolers. This position compels a deep sense of obligation regarding current affairs. I watch far too many speeches, interviews, debates, etc. My mind is filled to overflowing with politics, and trust me, it’s not a blessing.
My vote will be an informed one, is what I’m trying to say. And all that information doesn’t make me happy about my options. It can become a heavy burden. I’ll get to lay it down on Tuesday.
We all do, and I believe we should.
Mostly I teach about civilizations people don’t think about anymore – Romans, Carthaginians, Etruscans, Mongols, Vandals, Gepids, Goths, Byzantines, Huns, Numidians, Greeks, Macedonians, Seleucids, and on and on. It’s a long list, and some of the folks now reading are starting to feel the itch of boredom.
I love that stuff, and find it satisfying to think about all those interesting people, and how they lived their lives. But their time has come and gone. Their governments failed, for a variety of reasons, and they are no more, so people don’t give them too much thought.
The entire history of the United States could fit in a thimble’s worth of some of the histories I’ve mentioned.
We’re young, but we are also audacious.
During most of the history of the world, only a very few people got to talk, let their voice be heard and have the expectation of change or progress. Most people just took what came, whether it was prosperity or suffering, and it was usually the latter.
We’ll soon make our choices known, not just for President, but for everything up and down the line. Most people assume this will continue. I pray it will. History suggests that speculation might be too hopeful. During our lifetime, though, we get to be heard, and I believe this is one of those noble things about the USA.
Laws are important, and so should be our choice of those leaders who might impact their shape. I’ve studied a lot about the racial divide in America, and one of the things that is striking is the entrenchment of bigotry following progressive changes to law meant to achieve equality.
This can be seen in the antebellum South’s fight to protect slavery even while it was being abolished worldwide. When they lost that fight (a literal one, with well over 600,000 deaths), the laws were changed, the Freedman’s Bureau was created to protect those who had been liberated, and for the first time in American history, you had representatives elected from the African-American community, in the South of all places.
These laws were righteous, but there was a problem.
Hearts hadn’t changed.
So, racists began to work, craftily undermining all of the good in those laws, turning some back (the Freedman’s Bureau was abandoned in 1872), ignoring many with impunity, and reversing some by changing the rules. (Here is an article on a political coup that occurred in Wilmington, NC, after which major efforts were put in place to restrict voter rights for African-Americans. Here is another.).
ONE HUNDRED YEARS after abolition, the civil rights movement finally broke the grip of segregation, legally. The NAACP was founded principally as a legal foundation to dismantle discriminatory, racist laws and strive for racial equality under law. It had many great victories.
In 2008, we chose our first African-American president. It was a moment of the seemingly absolute conquest of racism in America. If you watched the news at all during this pandemic, you’ve seen this is not the case (even though some might like to pretend).
This Tuesday we will choose (some of you lucky dogs already laid down your burden early, perhaps at the mailbox), and we should do so as wisely as we can.
Some will choose the direction you believe will best protect the unborn, freedom of religion, expression, the right protect yourselves, and traditional biblical definitions of persons and marriage.
Others will choose a direction you believe will best protect those with preexisting conditions, marginalized and often abused populations, immigrants and people of color, the labor classes or indebted.
Make your choice, in good conscience, with the betterment of others and reverence for God in mind. Remember, though, that unless hearts change, any victory is temporary, and perhaps will lead to greater entrenchment, intensifying conflict.
I read some Jim Harrison (author of Legends of the Fall) this week, and he seems to have a keen grip on how we batter one another through prejudice. One of his best characters, named Brown Dog, uttered this gem – “As Grandpa used to say, it is not in the nature of people to understand each other.”
Then, after taking a selfie or just putting that "I voted" sticker on your shirt, walk out and love your neighbor - whether they are black or white or rich or poor or gay or straight or young or old or red or blue. We only got one hope for things to really get better, whether laws are good or evil. Love your neighbor.
Love conquers all.