Essays

Voting Day 2018

Well, the United States has celebrated yet another voting day. I avoided social media and the NY Times ticker for fear of the PTSD wave of anxiety it all provokes from 11/9/2016 when the orange plague was unleashed onto us and the world.

I voted early last week. The line was short. I finished quickly. I currently live in a predominantly red district filled with lots of wealthy white people, which means voting is easy. No, I don’t like living here, but it is what it is. Until I’m economically viable enough to move, I’m stuck here and no, I’m not one of those wealthy white people.

I am unaffiliated or an independent that has voted Democrat all my life with a few exceptions—very few. I’ve never been a Democrat. My first election was in 1988. I was naive enough at eighteen to vote for George H.W. Bush. Michael Dukakis riding a tank spooked me and Dan Quayle was an idiot. Lloyd Bentsen was old. I did not do my research. I learned from that experience. I’ve never voted Republican since.

I’ve never voted Green either even though I align more with that political philosophy. I’m more a Democrat Socialist. I realized early in life what voting for third parties does to our government. Certainly not as injurious as the 2016 election, but disadvantageous in ways not easily repaired in the short term. Does that sound reductive? Well, I suppose if you look at it that way. Our country and government have never been perfect. Far from it.

There were several races that had only one Republican running. I chose to leave those circles blank.

Our ballots were paper. All ballots should be paper. I’m not sure our country—or any country—will ever be safe electronically. Or from rich old white men.

Since the 2016 election, I trust our government, its politicians, and elections less than I’ve ever trusted them. The last two Republican presidents have taken power with less than the popular vote which means the American right is on the way to permanent minority rule.

Both the 2000 and 2016 elections were, in my eyes, illegitimate.

The majority of Congress are white, males, Christians, and millionaires. They have nothing in common with me or my friends. I see only a group of rich white men that are greedy hoarding more power and money and laying waste to our country and the world.

As a woman, an atheist and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Republicans specifically have consistently worked to deny me and my friends our rights. They work especially hard to suppress marginalized voters. They have to cheat to win. They refuse to recognize that investing in education and healthcare are investments in people—all people. Their racism and xenophobia are malevolent and spiteful and so very ugly that I get nauseous with dread thinking about it. So, I’ve stopped listening to them. I can almost see the poisons leaching into our society and across the world in real time as they regurgitate their rhetoric. On social media, I can feel it bleed into me and make me ill with their ugliness. Remember 28 Days Later? Like that.

I’ve cut back on social media. I’m not confident our country will ever recover from the 2016 election and the Republican and Trump corruption. I felt this same dread after the SCOTUS Citizens United ruling. With Brexit and Trump and Kavanaugh, it has only gotten worse. The dark forces are drawing us towards an uncertain chilling future. I vote and I write and I do what I must to help course correct us forward to, as Lincoln noted, “the better angels of our nature.”

Democrats taking the House was a step in the right direction, but the tendrils of darkness are not curtailed so easily.

Thanks to Rob Brezsny for giving me hope:

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Here’s useful wisdom from the poet Rumi.
“Our defects are the ways that glory gets manifested,” he said. “Keep
looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.”
Playwright Harrison David Rivers interprets Rumi’s words to mean, “Don’t
look away from your pain, don’t disengage from it, because that pain is
the source of your power.” I think these perspectives are just what you
need to meditate on, Virgo. To promote even more healing in you, I’ll add
a further clue from poet Anna Kamienska: “Where your pain is, there your
heart lies also.” (P.S. Rumi is translated by Coleman Barks; Kamienska by
Clare Cavanagh.)

I never read only my horoscope; I read them all.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): “The best thing one can do when it is
raining is let it rain.” That brilliant formulation came from poet Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow. Does it seem so obvious as to not need
mentioning? Bear with me while I draw further meaning from it, and
suggest you use it as an inspiring metaphor in the coming weeks. When it
rains, Sagittarius, let it rain; don’t waste time and emotional energy
complaining about the rain. Don’t indulge in fruitless fantasizing about
how you might stop the rain and how you’d love to stop the rain. In fact,
please refrain from defining the rain as a negative event, because after all,
it is perfectly natural, and is in fact crucial for making the crops grow and
replenishing our water supply. (P.S. Your metaphorical “rain” will be
equally useful.)

He reminds me every week of how much goodness there is in the world. Like from Pema Chödrön:

LIFE IS BOTH WRETCHED AND GLORIOUS
BY Pema Chödrön

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected.

“But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction.

“On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there.

“The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple.

“Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”

– Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

So, there’s hope on the horizon, I hope.

Categories: Essays

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