Rarely has voting been more important, I tell myself as I write postcards and letters to places I’ve never heard of: Falfurrias, Beeville, and Flower Mound, TX? But they matter: in a swing state, everyone must vote. Next I write the number to locate the early polling place; my 7-year old assistant highlights it and affixes a stamp. Some friends’ hands are too crippled by arthritis to write encouraging letters or postcards. But they have sworn to be on the phone until Nov. 2 if that’s what it takes. It’s tedious work, and the results are iffy, but I respond viscerally to the ideal offered by Joe Biden, first voiced by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney: This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme.
Recent history has been a sad mess, and let’s not forget that even before the pandemic, federal agents were separating children and parents at the border, consigning them to cages. ICE and for-profit detention centers have treated desperate refugees despicably, in no way aligned with the gospel of a welcoming Christ. And despite the pandemic, the threat to the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize health insurance for millions. Don’t even start on climate change—I’ve written other blogs about that. These are a simply a few reasons, plus the official refusal to condemn white supremacy, that underscore the importance of voting.
As Biden (I’m honest about my preference) said in his acceptance speech Aug. 20:
“Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot.”
Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, wrote a fine commitment to voting. Here’s an excerpt for those who missed it: “I will skip, I will crawl, I will slither, I will bike, I will hike, I will hitchhike, I will fly, I will roll, I will trek, I will trot, I will truck, I will boat, I will ramble, I will amble—and I will wear a face mask, a face shield, gloves, goggles, a hazmat suit, a space suit or a wet suit—but I damn well will get to my neighborhood polling station to see that my vote for Biden and Harris is cast and counted on Nov. 3.”
On display during the first presidential debate was petulance and arrogance (ignoring a two-minute time limit?) poised against compassion for human suffering. As Biden said eloquently, “over 200,000 people woke today to an empty chair at the kitchen table. Countless others tell mom or dad goodbye while a nurse holds up the phone.” This is the language we’ve longed for: not ignorance, contempt or self-aggrandizement in the face of a tragic crisis. But simple humanity at the highest levels of government. It seems so little to ask, but our vote is our voice and our power. Let’s not squander it.