There are many things that make me feel particularly American. Recently, watching the Summer Olympics, visiting the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, seeing Facebook posts from others of the great national parks, monuments, architecture across these United States. And, yes, voting.
Quick confession: While I love technology, I do miss flipping the lever inside an old voting machine, hearing the curtain close, and beginning to peruse the small black levers which offer me my choices on candidates and issues in any particular election.
Yet, taking that blank ballot from the poll worker and sitting at a table with the customary black marker, and then inserting my marked ballot into the "machine" still makes me feel patriotic. Just typing I can feel the finger of the black gentleman who usually stands at the machine and thumbs that "I Voted" sticker onto my left shoulder. It makes me proud.
In the days ahead we begin the home stretch of a national election that seems like it started about...10 years ago. :) And while this one has captured so much attention as "different," I'm not sure it's that different. We have, again, two imperfect major party candidates and two imperfect lesser knowns competing for the office.
Facebook is a twitter (pun intended) with all sorts of praise and prosecution of both major candidates. Some people speak with almost unreserved delight or disgust about this candidate or that while many remain silent about their preferences because 1. this is our American right and 2. in this election the blowback from either side can be quite caustic and even personal. Before I trudge further, I confess to being guilty of both. Like Paul, I am chief among sinners.
Nonetheless, it seems this time around that there is considerably more pressure for people not to be proud of their candidate or party. More people seem to be articulating "I'm voting for (fill in the blank), but...." And, my greatest fear, people are being silenced in voicing their views because of their family, peer group, colleagues, etc.
In fact, this post was prompted by such an encounter within recent days with a member of our more senior generation who said explicitly that she couldn't discuss her choices with friends due to the amount of recrimination and intimidation often directed back her way. That is not only unfortunate, it is, in my opinion, not very American.
While we respect ever person's right to keep their choices confidential, we should also respect ever person's right to publicly declare their allegiance without fear of intimidation or insult.
In solidarity with those on all sides who wish to declare their support, I don't mind saying...in November I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. It is not an anti-Trump vote. I chose her as my candidate long before the Republican primary was even leaning Mr. Trump's way. In 2008 and 2012 I voted for Barack Obama and had the privilege, along with my son John and several friends, to attend his first inauguration. It is my hope that, should Mrs. Clinton prevail, I should be able to say to my grandchildren that I attended the inauguration of both the first African American President and the first female President. And I don't mind telling them that, at least in part, I was drawn to their candidacies by the the idea of a Presidency shaped more and more by the diverse faces and genders of the American people. And, in both cases, I didn't consider my votes "against" John McCain, a war hero of the first order and true "maverick" in the Senate, nor against Mitt Romney, a proven businessman, capable governor, person of deep faith and ethics.
While I admit to a less favorable perspective on Mr. Trump, again neither do I vote against his personality nor peculiarities. I have plenty of my own. As a friend of mine says, "I'm just with the laughing woman in the pant suit" or as she might prefer, "I'm with her."
It seems to me all of us would be better to vote for someone rather than against. If you're a Trump, Johnson, or Stein voter, be for them. And if your friends don't agree or are voting differently, be for your friends. That's America. That's patriotism.
The success of our Union is not in the 43 different individuals who have served as President of these United States. The success of our Union is in the democratic processes so ingeniously enshrined into the founding documents of our nation. My faith is in neither Democrat nor Republican, neither Trump nor Clinton. My faith is in the American people, expressing their thoughtful and prayerful choices in this great experience we have every four years on a national level. And, while I always seek spiritual insight and guidance in these processes, I never assume God has given me some clear and perfect word about my choices. That God looks down on me fairly regularly with frown and puzzlement is not lost on me. My faithfulness as a child of God and as an American citizen often faulters. But I'm convinced God loves me and God loves you. And I'm convinced there's room for all of us in this great 240 year old experiment that still breathes on "from sea to shining sea."