Voting is about the closest thing there is to a sacrament in my secular little world; I don't have any holiday rituals, but I do have an Election Day ritual. Even though the vote I cast in the primary earlier this year was the first time my vote (mine) ever had the potential to matter—because I've always voted in a formerly red or decidedly blue state—I have always been excited to vote. I take the right and the responsibility seriously; I learn about the political and cultural issues in every campaign down to the infinitesimal details, and I consider just what I'm voting for as well as what I'm voting against, e.g. the tactics by which any candidate came to be in her or his position.
I've told the story before of my dad's (half-joking) concern for my social future when I was 17 and focusing my energies on knowing the politics of Tennessee Senators, just mentioned yesterday my firm childhood belief that memorizing the list of American presidents was a great patriotic act, and, in answer to last night's QotD about earliest memories of presidential politics, I'd say when my mom explained the concept of democracy to me in basic outlines after I saw a Schoolhouse Rock about the American Revolution; I can still remember feeling total and complete awe that one day I'd get to help elect the president.
I come from a family of teachers and cops and mail carriers and government bureaucrats and social workers and political strategists and soldiers and war protestors and poets and journalists. We are Democrats and we are Republicans and we are Independents, leaning either right or left; we are Americans and ex-pats and immigrants; we are religious and atheist; and we are all engaged with our government, even those of us whose paychecks aren't signed by Uncle Sam.
I despair at the existence of citizens who don't care, who are derelict in their duty of paying attention and holding their government accountable and being informed enough to make wise decisions. I despair at the state of our media, that requires plowing through ten tons of shit to get good information. I despair at our two-party system, and both the Democrats' and the Republicans' intractable determination to thwart a more vibrant democracy to retain their stranglehold on the government.
And because I despair at these things, I feel joy when I see people who are engaged despite them. I admire people who try to make a difference in this world, who understand intimately that the personal is political and that politics are—and should be—personal to us all. I love seeing people who are enthusiastic about and inspired by a candidate, people who are fired up, and I love getting fired up about a candidate myself, even though I know there's no such thing as a perfect candidate, and I will always be disappointed to one extent or another.
Democracy at its best is, after all, unlimited optimism shot through with a cold streak of cynicism. Deliver your candidates to their offices on your shoulders, to the sound of hopeful cheers, then hold their feet to the goddamned fire with the ruthlessness of someone whose very life depends on competent and compassionate governance.
Because it quite possibly does.
That is the way I have always practiced democracy. That is the way I will always practice democracy.
When I am critical of a candidate, it does not mean I regard that candidate as wholly without merit. When I am complimentary of a candidate, it does not mean I regard that candidate as wholly without flaws.
And when I post stories about people like Amanda Jones … or when I post images of girls who are engaged in the political process, especially in a year when we have seen such a shocking abundance of discouraging reasons for girls and women to disengage from politics … or when I recommend a beautiful post about what this election means to one little boy … or when I post a collection of images from a rally that is truly the best of what democracy has to offer, that includes an amazing image like this:
…it doesn't have anything at all to do with one specific candidate, except insomuch as that candidate provides the opportunity for the stories or the pictures. It is about Amanda Jones. It is about the children in those pictures. It is about celebrating our democracy, for which I have a huge old hard-on and always, always will. It's about my excitement to find other people who are engaged, and to whom politics is personal, and meaningful, and occasionally awe-inspiring, too.
Because democracy is also at its best when practiced by a passionate electorate who doesn't underestimate the right and the responsibility they hold—and evidence of like minds thrills me, way more than any candidate ever has.
This is something you need to know about me, so I thought I'd tell you plainly.