|Ohio, 1912 (via)|
Hanna and I went up to our local polling station around 7:15am this morning to cast our ballots. The lines were long, but moving quickly and we were in and out of the school cafeteria in about 30 minutes. Everyone was polite and efficient, and for some reason the signs offering translation services (Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish, and more) made me tear up. As brokenly human as our election process is, I’m grateful to have been born in a generation where my right to participate is taken for granted, rather than something I need to fight for. Queer folks who are same-sex marriage supporters have to experience their civil rights up for a vote, and often see those rights rejected by their fellow citizens … but at least we get to cast a vote for our own equal rights. Women during the suffrage campaigns could only batter on the door in righteous anger (or speak words of forceful persuasion) in a long, slow struggle to be let in. I am grateful that so many of them did.
Please vote today. Even if you’re voting for the other guy I sincerely want you to make your preference known. I know there are flaws in the system, and I have friends who are cynical about the process and abstain on principal – and I understand their reasons and respect that it’s their right to do so. But I’m going to encourage you to make your voice heard in a different way today: by making an affirmative decision about which direction you would like our nation — and each state within it — to move. If you don’t cast a ballot in the first place, if there are disputes over voter fraud or recounts there won’t be a ballot from you to re-count.
Regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised to know I voted a Democratic ticket. At four this morning, when the cats woke me up to demand breakfast, I lay in the dark and enumerated the reasons why — given the two-party system — Democratic candidates are really the only option for leftist me:
1. The social safety net. Welfare and “entitlements” may have become dirty words in contemporary American politics, but my vision for what government is good for actually starts (and largely ends) with provision of basic care for its citizenry, particularly the most vulnerable. I have friends currently surviving in part thanks to government support — food stamps, WIC, unemployment insurance, government-subsidized student loans, social security benefits. Both Hanna and I have benefited from state-subsidized health care and federal student loan programs (say what you will about the cost of higher education, federal loans made our advanced degrees and subsequent financial stability possible at a relatively sustainable price). In our elder years, we will hopefully benefit from whatever iteration of social security is available. As global climate change becomes a reality, disaster relief will be the difference between utter devastation and recovery and resilience for more and more of us. My ethics demand that I support a government that will continue to provide these to the best of its ability, and actively work to bring material security to us when we need it most.
2. Reproductive justice and bodily autonomy. I’m a person with female anatomy; my body these days is the subject of intense debate and scrutiny in the political realm, particularly due to its capacity to sustain a pregnancy. Despite the fact that I do not plan to procreate, I am still deeply affected by a world which sees persons with uteri as individuals whose bodily autonomy is not secure and subject to the political agendas of others. Self-interest demands, therefore, that I vote for politicians who — at least at the party level — recognize my humanity as a complex reality, not just something that exists in the absence of others’ trumping interests.
3. Civil rights and social justice for queer folk. Democratic politicians are not consistently supportive of equal civil rights for queer folks — and not all Republicans are anti-gay. But taken in aggregate, the Democratic party is the only viable political party that is actually making moves toward supporting my rights as a citizen with same-sex desires to not be discriminated against in law because of those desires.
Here in Massachusetts we also had the opportunity to vote on legalization of medical marijuana and physician-assisted suicide. I voted in favor of both. I have known enough people facing difficult end-of-life decisions, including my late grandfather who died in 2007 of aggressive lung cancer, to know that we should all have the right to choose when and how to die, when the opportunity to choose is available to us. Although my grandfather’s condition deteriorated too rapidly for him to reach the point where assisted suicide was actively on the table, he had that conversation with my family and the hospice care folks who helped our family through the process of his death. And when it comes to marijuana, I don’t actually think it should be criminalized at all but will take what I can get in terms of de-criminalization. Hopefully, as medical use becomes more widespread and aboveground the stigma against responsible use will lessen and regulation will move out of the criminal justice system and perhaps into the public health realm.
|This is what same-sex marriage looks like|
Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in four states today: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. E.J. Graff has been writing about the history and prospect of each measure over at The American Prospect, and I encourage you to check out her thoughtful state-by-state analysis. I know two families in Minnesota whose wee ones (ages four and six) are passionately supportive of the same-sex marriage campaigns and I’ll be thinking of them today. I want them both to know – Noah and Lilly I’m talking to you! — that regardless of the political outcome, they’re growing into fine people who are being the change we want in the world. Even if our guys don’t win this time around, that you care about fairness and kindness matters and will still make a difference, now and every day we move forward together.