Democracy Belongs to Us
An Election Day message from the General Secretary
I love Election Day.
For the first time in my life I voted by absentee ballot. I was saddened not to be able to stand in line with my Starbucks coffee at 7:00 in the morning, conversing with my neighbors that I not have seen in two years or more. It makes me feel like I am part of something very important and that my vote matters.
Every time I vote I remember that many people had to fight for me to have the right to vote. It makes me remember my high school civics teacher, Mr. Brigham, where I came to love civics, social studies and American history. It causes me to smile as I think of Professor Angela Holder, attorney and political scientist at Winthrop College as she wore her red boots and made Constitutional Law an absolute intellectual delight. My history and political science professors instilled in me some knowledge of government, a love of democracy, and the power of voting. I remember the moment of voting for the first time with as much reverence as I remember the first time I spoke in church, with a little fear, respect and a sense of pride.
Election Day was important in my family. Voting was a sacred and confidential trust of the highest order. And this trust must be protected and honored. I never knew, for sure, for whom either of my parents voted. (One month before her death, when she was very ill, I did know the envelopes my Mother stuffed and mailed for her then political party). My parents never urged us to vote one way or another. Our dinner conversations included the attributes and fallacies of certain platforms but never were we allowed to assail the character of the candidates, no matter how flawed. (My parents were of the school of “if you don’t have something good to say about someone then say nothing” which generally applied across the board).
And those were the days before the continuous media coverage exposed, in real time, the attributes as well as the sins and foibles of the candidates. Nevertheless, we must vote for the platforms that best represent our values.
This particular election season has been unbearably dramatic and often irreverent. The bitterness, fear, pandemonium of this process is soul-wrenching on a personal level. This chaos is harmful to our souls and spirits. It has brought us to the precipice of falling or pushing away family members, friends, and colleagues. It is a very poor example for young people.
While at times, this season has been a sacrilege both to democracy and to faith this is not who we are as citizens of these United States, as Christians, and as people of faith. We are better than this. We belong together. We need each other. We can be both moral and virtuous people of faith living our highest Christian values as well as the proud and noble citizens embodying the highest attributes of democracy.
Election days must be safe, free, fair, and I would add reverent, neighborly and a time of being proud of our right to vote. Our country, our democracy and our voice in the world must be protected, honored and prized.
This election season will not be over on Tuesday night, November 3.
We will have to wait patiently for every vote to be counted. In this election cycle, patience is a virtue.
As more voters cast their ballot by mail, states need time to ensure every vote is counted before announcing results. We might not know the results of the election on November 3. We can wait ensuring every vote counts. That is what democracy looks like.
Democracy calls for patience.
In the time of waiting for a result and even after the outcome is determined, there may be unrest, protests, demonstrations, civil disobedience, mud-throwing, name-calling and God forbid, even violence. As the Social Principles say:
We recognize the right of individuals to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience and, after having exhausted all legal recourse, to resist or disobey laws that they deem to be unjust or that are discriminately enforced. Even then, respect for law should be shown by refraining from violence and by being willing to accept the costs of disobedience. We do not encourage or condone any form of violent protest as a legitimate exercise of free speech or civil disobedience. - ¶164.F The Political Community: Civil Obedience and Civil Disobedience,
Democracy calls for empathy.
After all have voted, ballots are counted, disputed, challenged, and at last determine who the leaders of the country will be, we will continue to make this democracy work. We must. It belongs to us.