Monday, November 3, 2008

The Right to Vote is our True Wealth

What does voting have to do with prosperity? I believe that the right to vote is the true wealth of our country and our system of government. Having the choice of whether to vote or not and for whom makes us a rich nation even in challenging times. I heard about Blog the Vote and decided that I wanted to focus this post on voting. I have voted in every election since I was eligible and appreciate the opportunity to vote. I always feel so happy and proud on my way home from voting. It makes me feel that I have participated in something bigger than myself and that my vote makes a difference. Over the years I have had some friends and acquaintances who have chosen not to vote and who have told me that it didn't matter. This never made sense to me. Maybe that is in part because my grandparents on one side of my family and great-grandparents on the other side came to the United States from countries where voting was not an option and where they did not have the rights and privileges that we sometimes take for granted.

In recent months the upcoming election and related issues have seemed very divisive to me. At times I found that discussions across party lines were quite difficult. It was like some of my friends and I filtered our opinions of the candidates through lenses of varying thicknesses, from very different angles. With these filters in place at an almost unconscious level, it was just not possible to discuss the pros and cons of the opposing candidates in a meaningful way. As I started to realize the extent of the chasms between proponents of the two major parties, I decided to try to communicate as calmly and objectively as possible.

As I began to follow the election in more depth than usual for me, I was resolved to not buy in to the polarizing rhetoric and to stay positive. Good idea, but at times I found myself getting scared, annoyed, and upset. I followed politics and the ins and outs of the election news via the newspaper, TV, Twitter, and RSS feeds to my Google Reader. My friends across the country and I exchanged many emails. After a while, I found that I was feeling much more negatively about the opposing side than was useful. It became difficult for me to read articles that represented the other side.

One night last week I received an email from a friend that sarcastically delineated the differences between the two major parties and the "red" and "blue" states. It hit me as facetious, yet very humorous. Without really thinking, I forwarded this email to a lot of people. It had helped me release some of the tension that I'd been feeling about the upcoming election, so I passed it on. While one of my friends told me that she found it hilarious, another found it insensitive and offensive. She reminded me that although it's tempting to demonize, there are good people on both sides of the political spectrum. This is a friend who I have known for many years. I value her point of view and I appreciate that she reminded me of my original goal during this campaign--to stay calm and not get pulled in to the polarization. This reminded me that the deep divisiveness that has been part of "politics as usual" in recent years has lead me and others to be more sensitive to insults from the other side.

How does voting relate to prosperity? I'm sure that the true wealth in my life is the people who I know and friends I have. Even in this roller coaster of a campaign cycle my friends and family are what enliven and enrich my life.

Remember to VOTE tomorrow.

This post is written as part of the non-partisan, non-bashing Blog the Vote event. Please head over to Chasing Ray to see links to a wonderful collection of posts about voting.