Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Election Day 2010
I have always been interested in politics. From elementary school forward I have captivated by the political process, the personalities and the power wielded by those who create legislation. I have been a committed voter, as well, having as my goal every two years to reach the polling place before the doors open so that I can be one of the first to vote.
This morning I arrived in the 6:55 AM darkness to wait with several other hardy souls. It was a brisk Minnesota morning, beautiful for early November, but chilly nonetheless. I counted the others waiting ahead of me to discover that I would be voter number ten. Among the ten of us I was by twenty years the youngest person there (and I am in my mid-40's). Two of the individuals used walkers to arrive from the senior citizen residence across the street, and a third required the assistance of an election judge due to failing eyesight. The others of us were above 40.
My wait was brief (less than 5 minutes for the authorizing process and another 90 seconds to await a voter booth). I glanced over the ballot, having known before entering the polling place how my votes would be cast. Within another 5 minutes I was finished, and as I inserted my ballot into the automatic tally machine I saw that I was voter number nine this year. Two years ago I was in the first fifteen, so I felt pretty good that my goal to "get there early" had been met.
As I filled in the ovals next to the candidates who received my vote, I recognized how differently I vote today compared to twenty years ago. My worldview has changed considerably in the past twenty years, and that largely because of my involvement with children and people whose lives are at the margins of society.
Twenty years ago I had a more naive understanding of life and the world. At that time I had a more profound conviction that there were plenty of safety nets available for those who were down on their luck or for children in poverty or for families needing resources beyond their own making. I must confess that I prefer that worldview, because it was simpler and easier to live with. To focus simply upon taking care of myself (and at that time it was only I as a single person), with the assumption that everyone else, somehow, would do fine as well is a contented way to live.
My life as a pastor and adoptive parents of kids, all of whom come from backgrounds of poverty to be sure (and often neglect or abuse), has turned my head in a different direction. While I am a strong supporter in empowering people to self-sufficiency and the consequent values to self that brings, I have come to recognize that a social safety net must be a presumption if those who live at the margins of life are to find independence and self-determination. Without such a safety net it is only a continual cycle of meaningless attempts to move ahead.
Perhaps what I'm saying is that I have encountered a world that is much more complex than I would ever have thought and that there are no easy answers. In the face of such a situation, I feel compelled to vote in a way that seeks, in the midst of all the messiness of human lives, to provide opportunities for those leas well cared for. Even if that means some perceived "cost" or "loss" on my own part.