Four years ago, on a Friday evening in late summer, my Welcome Week group and I gathered around a table in the campus center basement. A couple years ago those tables were replaced with new offices and fancy leather chairs, but in 2008 it was the perfect place to escape the constant, searing Texas heat.
And as we chewed on cafeteria hamburgers, our conversation turned, inevitably, to the impending presidential election.
“So, what do you think? Who are you voting for?” I posed the question to our peer leader, a senior bible major and Optimus Prime enthusiast, who had recently shared the story of his Central Park engagement. I’ll admit it: I thought he was pretty cool.
And he just kind of laughed, a knowing “do I really want to get into this discussion with a group of self-assured freshman 30 minutes before the mentor group olympics” kind of laugh.
At least that’s how it sounds in my memory.
“Well” he finally offered, “I haven’t decided for sure, but I don’t really think I’m going to vote.”
In all of my political discussions, the idea of not voting had never occurred to me.
Growing up, my general belief system was something along the lines of:
Good Christian = good student = good American = voting Republican.
It had taken me 18 years to pull the last word off of that equation. In all my wisdom, I now believed it was possible to be a good Christian and a democrat. I know, how about a standing ovation for enlightened thinking.
But not voting? This is America. Elections matter. Democracy is the conduit by which all good and bright and true things are brought into the world. How will you fight injustice and the disintegration of morality if you don’t vote?
And then came election night, and I made the mistake of getting on facebook.
People seemed to literally believe that the world was ending. Or that Jesus himself had returned to instate the United States of America as the New Jerusalem.
And suddenly, the whole thing felt incredibly farcical. Half my friends had never experienced such joy. And the other half had already called a Canadian* real estate agent.
*Because I’m a contrarian, I felt the need to point out to them that if they were hoping to escape the tyranny of socialism, Canada was not a stellar choice.
The next day, I just kept thinking, “who cares?” What if Obama is the anti-Christ? What if, in four years, despite congressional oversight and a working judicial system, he somehow manages to destroy the very fabric of society of plunge us into a pit of economic collapse so deep that we can never escape? What if?
*Let it be said, that I don’t think that is or was remotely possible.
God will still expect the very same things from me that he expects right now. I mean, yeah, that would be awful, but my primary allegiances and obligations would not be any different.
Which brings me to 2012, in which I’m not planning to vote.
And it’s not because I’m uninformed. And it’s not even because I’m cynical, though I can rail against vitriolic and ineffectual politicians with the best of them. And it’s not because there aren’t issues I care about.
*Truth be told, I nearly changed my mind when Romney came out against PBS. Because I think NPR and PBS are the only unambiguously good things that the federal government does with my money. And I will pay for any number of ineffectual programs if I still have Ira Glass and All Things Considered. But,
It’s just my private protest.
Against all the years that I pledged allegiance to a flag.
Because I love my home, but it’s not my God.
And I don’t believe a politician will save the world.
On the first Wednesday in November, we’ll all wake up, and the world will still be turning, Lord willing.
One side will be celebrating.
The other will be in utter despair.
Compromise will still be a dirty word.
John Stewart will still be funny.
The poor will still need food.
Marriage equality will still be right, and it will still be happening.
My stomach will still ache at the thought of the billions we spend on the military.
I will still be paying into a social security system that will never benefit me.
I will still wake up and go to work.
I will still be a Christian, for all the broken mess that word encompasses.
I will still be wrong about a lot of things, I’m sure.
I will still be trying to figure out how to love well and care for hurting people.
In the end, I just don’t think this election has the eternal consequence it claims, and I won’t be participating.
*please note that this is only what I decided I should do. I don’t think that nobody should vote. I don’t think you’re a bad Christian or whatever if you want to vote. This is just how I made my own decision.