Something to know about me is that I do not like to do what people tell me to do simply because they tell me to do it.
I ask lots of questions and like to dig to understand “why”. I realize it annoys people. This has even sparked accusations of me being rebellious or disrespectful. But I really, really want to understand. I want to “get” it.
And this is how I have come to feel about voting in America.
I am grateful for the right to vote.
As grateful as I can be. Isn’t it like everything we fight for versus the things that are handed to us? There are so many things we are passionate about. Issues, rights, laws that keep us up at night or make us shake our head when others don’t see or experience it the way that we do.
And we really want this: for others to feel the same way or at the very least, understand why we feel and believe the way we do.
But they often can’t, don’t and won’t…
STILL PAYING FOR OUR RIGHTS
In two days, I along with a few hundred people, will sit and reflect on the lives and service of the Marines who died while serving in the Iraqi.
It was a remarkable sacrifice.
Because one of the deaths was personal to me, I sometimes get wrapped up in wanting everyone to know of the cost of their freedoms and to behave accordingly, to behave gratefully.
But how could they understand? How could they really know?
The death and sacrifice of those Marines going to war, the blacks, the women – whatever groups outcast, underestimated warriors you identify with most – their efforts, their losses are difficult to keep at the forefront of our country’s mind because we’ve become a nation that votes for ourselves. We vote from our own stories, our experiences, our own truths.
My right to vote and why I voted is layered in that.
As I get older, I’m learning more about my highly sensitive nature. Layered with anxiety about being in crowds and the words that are spoken by those running and those in leadership and most jarring are those within my circle, community and faith.
My husband and I voted early. My first time voting as a Texan. (Yep, you read that right – I did not vote in the most recent presidential election.) I ensured my driver’s license was up-to-date, brought in the printed copy of my voter’s registration card and almost brought my passport.
Though I’ve not experienced any largely overt forms of racism while living here in the Metroplex, the subtleties (compliments about my articulation, how soft my hair feels, acting surprised at how educated I am, stepping in front of me line without regard for my being there before you, the list goes on and on…) matched with what is relayed in the national news to people who look like me, lingered in my mind as I prepared to show up and act on my right to vote.
I was concerned that my showing up to vote with the same legal documentation required of everyone else would not be enough. I was anxious about showing up to vote in a place where I’ve lived for years because I was unsure of how I would be received.
Because of the way I’ve seen people behave on the political news shows, in the news, social media posts and the like I was a bit anxious about showing up to the polls. Please hear me.
Before you dismiss my anxiety and tell me what the Bible says about fear + anxiety, hear that I’m not controlled by it, only sharing that I felt it.
Before you dismiss my references to experiences I felt to be racist, ask yourself “could it be true?” Especially if it isn’t your personal experience.
I still voted.
Before you tell me I’m overreacting or making it too personal, consider that everyone’s vote is just that personal.
I spent a lot of time on “vote411” reading all of the candidates’ answers to the questions and thinking about what they were expressing and made my decisions based upon that. I was able to narrow the focus to the races in our county + state and then had my ballot sent to me via email.
Even though I felt prepared, I still felt unsure, uneasy.
All of that going into the voting booth with one voter. I just imagine all of the “whys” behind each voter. It’s no wonder we suffer with only having two sides (right or wrong) to choose from. It makes me wonder – voting may be a right but does it really allow us to exercise our greatest gift, “to choose”.
I will have you know, my voting experience was without consequence, thanks to the lovely, orderly, visibly diverse team at Keller Town Hall.
MY VOTE IS FOR HOPE
When I was preparing to vote, I had the revelation that while it is my vote, I could benefit others by thinking beyond what I think is right for everyone in Tarrant County and in the state of Texas.
My selections were not for one straight party and I refused to fill in every spot – I only voted if I felt I was making a somewhat educated decision. My thinking was quite simply this – I want people at the decision making tables who are asking questions that will add depth, will consider people’s stories that are different than their own and the ones that are most commonly considered.
Since none of the candidates have ever walked in my shoes, talked to me to know or understand my story and have not interacted with me consistently to know what I think, feel, believe or need from our government, I have released them from the responsibility to personally represent me.
Instead, I placed my votes based upon on the hope that their work will be sustainable, beneficial for more Americans, centered on making loving, truthful and tough decisions.
Vote your vote.
And when the election is over, whether your politicians, party and issues are on the “winning side” or the “losing side”, remember that your voice, your life and your beliefs are not less significant because of who is sitting in office.
You can still make an impact, be bold, live loving others – in fact, this is what we all need to do. I believe with everything that this is where the meaningful work is.