A Rock, and a Hard Place, and Gross National Shame
This is the first election I ever remember feeling like it was impossible to make a moral choice.
While scores of Americans seem able to charge ahead, confidently embracing a major candidate without flinching, I have felt like every possible choice endorses at least one form of corruption.
In fact, I’ve had bad dreams about voting this go around. In those dreams, I’m standing inside the booth, trying to force myself to push a button, paralyzed. I keep trying to make my hand move, but it will not.
When I wake up in the dark, I feel a thousand accusations hitting me. “You are a coward. You don’t get it. You are so elite, so spoiled; you expect a perfect world. Your generation doesn’t understand how evil evil can be. Grow up and deal with the cards dealt to you.”
But shame hasn’t helped me decide; it’s only weighed my heart down and made me feel trapped.
Now I don’t mean that the big ideological issues are confusing. I have seen too much of human nature to believe that large government could provide a panacea. When it comes to this, my vision is clear.
First off, globalism is not complicated, because globalism will inevitably result in widespread abuse of the vulnerable. We should resist globalism for the same reason we advocate for the rights of individual women inside of a marriage. When the flurry of a romance dies, a woman’s autonomy--her freedom to earn a living and make her own decisions--protects her from the threat of mistreatment. The trajectory of this principle applies to the autonomy of nations.
Secondly, I know that our greatest enemy grows from within America, not from without. Lincoln was right in his warning that America will not be overcome by an external enemy but by the breaking down of her soul.
Former KGB agent, Yuri Bezmenov, has clearly shown us how the steps of such a national breakdown can occur. If you haven’t watched his interview, it’s worth your time. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3qkf3bajd4) I don't mean that the Commies are coming (that's so 1982). I do mean that for one reason or another, many of the strategies Bezmenov describes are being employed. I don’t know who is driving those strategies, but I do know that we are foolish to ignore their presence. Whoever this enemy is, we should resist it.
Thirdly, I know that we must maintain a strong military. I’ve seen too much evil to believe that wicked leaders beyond our borders can be engaged with anything but ready might. Diplomacy is preferable to force, and diplomacy tends to work among civilized men. But not all men are civil.
Fourthly, I know that the weight of our governance should always lie in individual states instead of an obese federal command center. This is true for the same reason that helicopter parenting and micromanaging bosses are counterproductive. Leaders who cannot respect the independence of those who are being led do more harm than good. A light touch is always best.
So these large issues are utterly clear to me. However, when it comes down to the riddles of human rights, I have questions.
I want a government that is influenced by the kindness and wisdom of my faith, but I do not want a theocracy. Though I am a Christian, I want the masses to have the freedom to choose Jesus instead of living in a world of laws that force them to live according to my beliefs.
Thinking through immigration is not easy for me. I am both wary and profoundly empathetic.
Legislation about religious liberties and gender issues is not as simple for me it is for some evangelicals. Though I hold to an orthodox personal stance on those matters, I’m still thinking through how a government’s response to morality should differ from the response of an individual.
I certainly think that racial injustice exists. I want to help fight against it, but since I’ve seen insincere politicians taking advantage of abused minorities, pretending to advocate for them while pursuing their own interests, I'm not sure how to help entirely. I don't immediately trust those who claim to be racial saviors.
These are just snapshots, but maybe this will show you why I don’t find myself drawn to a cold, hard party stance on every issue facing American voters. I’m torn. I’m complex. I cannot charge forth with the abrasive confidence that I see in many others at present.
But last night, a thought came to me. This thought may be too simple for you, but after months of inner turmoil, it washed through me like a breath of fresh air. Maybe it will do you some good as well.
For the first time a good long while, I thought of a vote as only a commodity.
I didn’t think of a vote as a definitive statement on every belief that I possess; I thought of it like a dollar bill. Like an ounce of gold. Like currency.
I spend money as ethically as possible, but I don’t expect my investment to be pristine. When I order a flat white at Starbucks, I know some of my cash will go to causes and beliefs that I don't endorse. When I donate money to Compassion International, I know that there might be some waste in the system here or there. If I donate to a church, I know that certain elements of doctrine contradict my own.
When I tip a waitress at a restaurant, I know that her boss might not always be kind to her, and that he will also benefit financially from what I pay for a meal. When I invest in stocks, I know that CEO’s leading every business involved in a given mutual fund might not operate with the ethics that I desire.
As a whole, I try to do what is right with my money, and I reevaluate regularly to make sure that my beliefs flow into my investments. But if I burn every single thread of my focus in spending every single penny to perfection, I will exhaust myself before I can invest myself in activity that produces greater returns.
If I think of a vote as a commodity, I can step back and decide where the thrust of that investment goes, drop my the money in the slot, and then get busy with other work. And there’s something about this that feels healthy and right.
So many of us have begun to turn our votes into selfies. We see this investment as our profile picture, as our identity. But especially during this election, that attempt is rather silly. Only the most extreme or the most naive people actually want to identify with Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Most of us are holding our noses, sorry that it’s somehow come to this.
For normal people like us, I think it’s possible to render to Caesar what is Caesar's without trusting in Caesar, without exalting Caesar, without lying for Caesar. It’s possible to spend our dirty dollar in the best way we can, not expecting a President to be any sort of messiah, and then keep on trucking.
Guilt-mongers have tried to tell me that if I vote for Candidate X, I’m the sort of person who supports Candidate X. They tell me that I support sexual abuse. They tell me that I support murdering babies. They tell me that my vote means that I support a hundred things I would never support.
Yet that’s unfair, manipulative rhetoric, and it’s not realistic.
We’ve landed a rotten election with terrible candidates. There are no flawless choices. And despite my tendencies to self-condemn, I’m starting to realize that I can resist the gross national shame that is being constantly projected upon me.
I can resist the shameful identities political advocates are trying to pin on me no matter what I do, use the dollar I’ve been given to contribute to my political certainties and then shake the dust of this crummy little election off my feet while tending to more important matters. Because while a vote is something, it's not everything. And when I walk away from that booth, I'm walking away with 1459 days at my disposal to do higher and better good for the nation I love.