Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's Election Season - all year!

The actual presidential election is over a year away and it's a good thirteen weeks to the first primary but I find myself in a really uncomfortable position. I feel as though I have to decide right now who I am going to vote for in the New Jersey primary. I am, of course, a registered Democrat. And I have found that growing up, having children and trying to run a household has pushed me further and further away from my fiscal relativity. I like structure. I like budgets being balanced but I also want all people in our country to be free and a woman's right to choose to be protected. But my priorities have definitely changed since I first worked on Bill Clinton's campaign in college. I want better health care, even though our family is incredibly fortunate to have good health care and to be able to pay our medical bills. I want justice and opportunity for the poor and disenfranchised, I want better public education, more access to healthy, clean food and most importantly I want the seasons to appear as they should (read my previous post).

And all that being said, what lies heaviest on my mind is the growing or I should say shrinking distinction between the secular and religious in this country. Between church and state. I consider myself to be of a spiritual nature, participating in various organized religious pursuits at different times of the year. I do not attend any church, temple or mosque regularly - if at all. But I do believe and support the basic tenets of this country's foundation which I thought were: to escape religious persecution and to allow a space for practice and hopefully discourse. Since most of the people who founded America were of the same Christian ilk it may seem as though they agreed on everything, they did not. They were, it seems, far more progressive than most people running for President nowadays:

Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.

George Washington

But endanger the peace it has. Religion and faith is the real wedge issue in this campaign. It is usually cloaked in phraseology or hidden behind strong anti-choice and anti-gay marriage rhetoric. But it is incredibly present. The right has had a stranglehold on religion and what must be its synonym in political parlance - morality - for years now. Apparently they are the only people who love their families and can do any good for this nation. The Democrats seemed too terrified to even mention the "m" word for fear of being attacked for their pro-choice positions. But one man has stood alone and distinguished himself by speaking out. And that man is Barack Obama.

I have had an on-again, off-again love affair with Senator Obama. When he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 I got chills. I was on my feet cheering and talking back to the television. He was speaking directly to me, to my heart. Building, with his words, the America I envisioned in my quietest and most hopeful moments. And he even seemed sincerely capable of achieving all he outlined. As time went on I began to fear that Senator Obama might not have enough experience to be the President (those damn pundits again!). That he would not be able to handle foreign affairs. That he was not ready. I embraced John Edwards who is almost as liberal as I am. There was just one problem: I didn't know if I actually trusted Edwards. Was he sincere? Or was he just really good at telling a story? I remembered that I was not that fond of him when he ran for VP in 2004, so what changed for me? Was it his positions? Was it his dedication to poverty? Or was it his electability? Did I want a Democrat to win that badly?
I owed it to myself to investigate further. To really read up on all the candidates. And so I have been doing my own independent investigation of truth.

I am back on the fence but now with both legs hanging over on the Obama side. And it is all because of my latest trip to his website. Under "issues" he has the usual suspects: poverty, education, healthcare, but then there is something interesting at the bottom of the list: "faith and politics." What you say?! Someone is actually going to take on this loaded topic? Take it on he did, and with incredible depth and thoughtfulness. He once again spoke to me, and the love affair is back on. Check it out for yourself:

Barack Obama's Reconciling Faith and Politics Speech

And check out a few words from the men who founded this country:

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God.

Thomas Jefferson

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
Thomas Jefferson

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
Thomas Paine

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
Thomas Paine

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.
Thomas Paine

in peace


Laura said...

Thanks you for putting into words that nagging feeling I've been having about the elections. I, too, feel as though I need to decide, RIGHT NOW who I will vote for.

Initially, I was very enthusiastic, I even ordered some "Hillary" bumper stickers. I just haven't been able to bring myself to put them on the car.

At first, it was ennui, apathy; now it's indecision. None of this bodes well for my participation in the political process.

So, thanks for kicking me in my "electoral" butt. Time to start paying attention and watching the debates, even if I have to do it with one eye closed to the insincere rhetoric!

Minkgirl said...

Yo Nanda Mama!

Welcome to the blogosphere. So glad to hear your insights and share your wisdom. Living in London, I've been quite removed of late from American politics, but I'm definitely going to check out Obama's website. I'm a fan of Michael Lerner (radical rabbi), who is all about reconnecting spirituality/faith and liberal politics.

Loved your fall post as well.



ilyakogan said...

Religion in American politics scares me a lot. I've been trying to analyze it and I think it has more to do with an instinct than with any logic.

There is a lot of logical arguments why I 'shouldn't be' afraid. My friend Joe at work for example says that with a sincerely religious person you know what you are getting. Their behavior could be predicted because they follow a strict set of rules... Then there is an argument that the US Constitution is allegedly so good and founding fathers were so brilliant that no matter who the leaders are the theocracy is impossible...

I'm not going to argue with any of this. I'm tired of arguments and intellectualizing everything. But I believe that what we call 'instinct' is an unverbalized conclusion our brains have reached...

I'm in serious fear of a religious tyranny being established in the US in our lifetime. As always it will come with populace cheering and rejoicing at the fact of their loss of freedom.