I voted today. And, to be honest, I’m not particularly proud or happy about it. I KNOW that voting is a privilege that many around the world do not have and that it’s a privilege that, even in the U-S-of-A is withheld from some for political reasons. I KNOW it is a right many folks had to fight to get. I KNOW it’s a “civic duty.” I KNOW that voting is important. I KNOW that the concept of a democracy means that all votes matter equally and that we all get a say in the direction we’re headed as cities, states, and country all by pulling a lever or filling in an oval or however people vote around this great land. I KNOW that there are real issues that divide candidates and that my faith can have a formative role in shaping whose policies I align myself with. I KNOW this. I really do.
So, at 7:50 AM, within an hour of the polls opening, I was getting my ballot. I wasn’t first in line, but I was there early and I’ve walked around with my sticker to encourage others to do the same. Even if you aren’t behind someone 100%, you can write in a candidate you are behind. Or, you can make the “lesser of two evils” argument and choose the person you think is the lesser of two, or three, or more evils.
But, I’m not sure that I have much hope for a better tomorrow for me and my children and my neighborhood because of what happens in the polling stations today…no matter what the outcome.
You may recall that, six years ago, then candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform of “HOPE” and “CHANGE” with those iconic posters bearing his image and those words. That’s been six years. Some will claim the country has gone down the toilet since then and others still claiming he’s just about ready to destroy the nation. Some will say we’ve made great strides and we’re well on our way to all of those promises. But, really, I think it shows how hard it is to change things in this land of ours. No matter which “side” controls this or that branch of government, they still need to work with the other “side” to get anything done. And, at this point, we don’t do a good job with that whole “working together” thing.
I honestly believe that Obama, along with just about every other politician out there, starts off with great plans to make this country, this world of ours, a better place. Yes there are different priorities depending on whether one is a liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, Independent, or Libertarian, or whatever. But, once in the system, I think it’s much harder to change things than they had hoped (that and they have a whole lot of campaign promises to donors that need attention and a campaign for reelection that starts immediately after getting into office–but that’s a different story). Whether it’s ensuring voting rights or fighting economic disparity or opening up areas for development or protecting the environment or lowering taxes or the engaging in the drug war, the issues are big…and complicated…with a whole lot of different voices at the table…and a whole lot of persons with their hand in the proverbial “cookie jar” wanting something for themselves. Substantive change is hard. It’s hard and, for the most part, slow.
It reminds me of a picture a friend posted yesterday on Facebook:
While I am not saying that my vote doesn’t matter–I’m not saying that at all–I am saying that it matters less than some politicians are making it out to be. No, this is not the most important election in our lifetimes. No, the country isn’t going to hell in a handbasket if this or that person wins. In fact, no matter who wins, no matter which party has the bigger parties tonight, no matter what the weather forecast is for tomorrow, the sun will still come up, the birds will still sing, and our God will still reign.
And we’ll still have political gridlock.
And we’ll still have poverty.
And we’ll still deal with issues like gun control and abortion and legalized/illegal drugs, and health care.
This general hopelessness comes with a caveat. I am more hopeful on a local level and state level. I actually know some of the folks who are running for office at a state or regional level. One of them is someone I count as a friend. I have more hope in their character and more hope that the incremental changes they initiate could make a difference in my little corner of the world. There’s less political noise at this level. This is not to say there is none…but at least it’s less.
Yet, regardless of who wins, I choose not to put my HOPE in any politician or in any of the election results. At the end of the day today (and at the start of the day tomorrow) I hope in Christ and his Kingdom.
David Fitch said it well last year:
The real place of political power is at the Table. It is from the Table that true justice is birthed, economic and otherwise. It is from here (in Christ’s death and resurrection) that God has changed the world and shall bring change to our neighborhoods. It is from here we can even discern whether to vote or not… So, blessings on you as you seek to be faithful to the true imperium today – the Kingdom of God breaking in through a people who claim Jesus is Lord.
Or the Bible may put it this way:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4, NRSV)
Oh…one last thing. Another hope that I have…that the incessant negative ads bombarding the television and the internet will cease. Enough already.
We can hope, can’t we.