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.

Voting and Columbia

As I said at Hail Columbia, voting is where the magical meets the mundane: we take our intent and put it into action. Go vote!

As Hecate says, we are the daughters and sons of iron-jawed angels. They and many others won us the right to vote. Go vote!

And finally, as a devotee of Columbia, this isn’t just the most important right of living in a democracy, it’s the most important rite. Go vote!

That last part is kind of a strange thing for me to write. I’m a secularist; I think we should base our choices for the country on secular, not religious grounds. I am motivated by my religion, obviously, but will seldom argue for policies on that basis, and when I do, I always also have sound secular arguments which will stand on their own. It drives me nuts when people say they’re going to write in Jesus for all the offices on the ballot and stuff like that. So where do I get off saying that Columbia has anything to do with this?

Well, I think Columbia’s a little like me: kind of conflicted. In some ways, I prize her as a contradiction in terms, a goddess of secular-ness. I think the values that she represents include the separation of church and state. If we’re going to be able to honor goddesses at all, we have to guarantee freedom of religion, and no religious tests for office, and all those other things that make us a secular country where many religions and none flourish.

This contradiction folds back on itself: I hesitate to say that voting is a sacred act – as opposed to a secular one – but I do think it meets a certain definition of sacrality. Voting to me is so very, very important that it is set apart. I focus my intentions on it beforehand. I take particular time to do it. Notice how voting places have their own boundaries defined, so that no overt politicking can take place within a certain distance of the polls. That reminds me of a circle, a set-apart space for this particular act of will to occur. So voting is set-apart, special, and perhaps that’s the right way for it to be to honor my goddess of secularity.

As a Witch, I will hold those tensions within myself. My religion and my insistence on the primacy of a secular government go with me, hand-in-hand, to the polls. And there, I will take a deep breath and put my intent into action. So whether I think of it as sacred or not, it’s a chance to make a change in the world: it’s magic.

So vote it be.