Voting is still a holy act

When I voted today, it was a holy action. That doesn’t mean it was a perfect one, or a sacred one, but it was still holy.

It can be tempting to say that politics is just too messy, too ugly, too banal, and that we don’t want to deal with it. Or to claim that if no politician or party accurately represents my position, I just won’t vote at all. I get that, I really do. I believe there are times that abstaining might be the better option. I just don’t think that today’s election in Virginia is one of those times.

I’m totally underwhelmed with who I voted for, but I could not in good conscience stand aside when a social conservative more interested in regulating private oral sex between consenting adults than instituting background checks on gun purchases is trying to gain control of my home. And don’t get me started on his positions in the war on women and his anti-QUILTBAG stances. His running mate is, doubtful though it might seem, even further out on the far right wing. And their slate’s candidate to replace Cuccinelli as AG is no prize, either.

Voting against them doesn’t make me happy about who I did vote for, but it did make me convinced that it was necessary to vote. This situation is a murky ethical choice. But we make these kinds of choices every day. When you deeply consider the ethical and environmental ramifications of your choices about what to eat, wear, and do, the intricacies quickly become overwhelming and the lack of “pure” options is starkly depressing. But we do make choices; we try to make better choices, weighing the kinds of harm and the situations involved, and most of us, most of the time, make a choice and try to do our best. I see voting – at least in this situation – as the same kind of closely considered imperfect act. But those imperfections don’t necessarily remove it from the realm of being holy.

For me, the work of voting is also an offering to Columbia, the American Athena. But that isn’t just “goddess-washing” the act of voting. It goes to the heart of what I’m talking about here. Athena is a goddess of practicality, and of humans and how they live together. She knows all about trade-offs and difficult legal situations. She stands over the current Capitol, and although the situation inside that building may be dysfunctional, I don’t believe that means we should scrap it all or lay blame equally and try to start from scratch. We’ll see more about that when next year’s elections roll around. But Columbia wants us, I believe, to work together, and to do better. That means starting from where we are, imperfections and all.

This idea of working together, even when that is difficult, is why, for me, voting is still holy. Voting is the core action of participating in the larger whole, in the democracy of our country that is supposed to include everyone. The business of how we manage our joint, civic lives is right down there in the connections between all of us. As such, it’s never going to be “pure” or “ideal.” It’s not sacred in the sense of being set-apart from the everyday. But it is essential. Voting is a piece of magic where I reinforce my participation in what makes us a whole, and that makes it holy.

I hope you have the chance to vote today.

Change over time

One of the things I’ve struggled with is how much I’ve changed over time.

In our political conversations, one of the most obvious examples of how our discourse in this country is biased towards the conservative is the ridicule and scorn a politician will encounter for changing her mind. Now, there are some good reasons for this; voters want a person to be predictable, so they can tell what it is they’re voting for ahead of time. But our discourse tends to carry this to extremes and have a fetish for consistency. We imply or simply state that someone who has taken a complex, nuanced, or context-dependent stance is unreliable, or “doesn’t really believe in anything.”

On the other hand, politicians sometimes have to “walk back” an incendiary comment rather than “doubling down” – notice that we have specialized language for this! When they do a walk back, it can be seen by more ideological members of their base as weak, but on the whole, I’m glad that we have some limits to our discourse. It shouldn’t be okay to say hateful things, especially for people making public policy. Obviously, in some situations, change is necessary.

My inner skeptic – in this case, acting as my inner annoyance – loves to suggest that I’m just a stereotype, I’m “just” rebelling against the way I was raised, or whatever. Most annoying is when it suggests to me that because I’ve gone through major changes in my life, including a change of religion and tremendous ideological shifts away from the way I was raised, I can’t be authentically anything. If I’ve changed once, maybe I’ll change again; maybe in twenty years I’ll be the stereotype of a Fox-watching red-blooded Amurkan who wants to shoot all those crazy librul types like who I am right now.

Okay, so that’s theoretically a possibility. I’m not willing to cut myself off from that because being unable to change means being unable to grow, to learn from one’s experiences and evolve in response to them. (Fred Clark at Slacktivist has described this closing-off of possibilities and the resultant personal atrophy quite well, but I can’t find a link at the moment. Anyone know where that went?)

And there are good reasons that people in their teens and twenties can go through major personal revolutions – they’re in the process of becoming independent adults. For some of us who came to Paganism during this part of our lives, myself included, that journey was a long one and included leaving a toxic religious environment. Dealing with that necessitates a lot of change.

Finally I looked back at the things that happened in my life before, during, and after some of these major changes. I realized that anyone who had been through what I’d been through and hadn’t changed as a result would probably have something wrong with her. Faced with the challenges I’ve been through, it’s been the right and natural response for me to learn, change, and grow.

So I’ve made peace with how I’ve changed over time. How do you understand your own changes?