“My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” -Representative John Lewis, Democrat from Georgia, and one of the original Freedom Riders speaking at the Democratic National Convention
I’m in awe, and I have to say thank you to politician and spiritual activist Rep. John Lewis. Thank you Rep. Lewis for saying out loud to the nation and the world something I’d actually penned a few days earlier but was too scared to post. Thank you for putting two words together that I too had been turning on my tongue but was, well, too nervous to share here with all of you. Those two words? Sacred and vote.
When I let myself settle into my deepest joy and wonder at the idea of democracy, voting truly does feel sacred. It is the right, after all, to play a part in determining our collective future. And when I think about the many throughout history who have given of themselves, even died for the right to vote, I am touched by the profound gift and responsibility voting represents.
I’ve always loved the idea of the phrase ‘casting’ my vote. It sounds alchemic, as if together we are casting a spell with each election, intending collectively some transformational working, a positive manifestation for our communities. And it was with that idealistic spirit that I began thinking about titles for a post-convention blog that spoke of getting out to vote as an act of sacred activism.
But then reality came flooding in and I questioned whether these words were even appropriate to utter in the same breath in the face of today’s political realities. Perhaps it was some of the same realities that compelled Rep. Lewis to place the word almost in front of the word sacred in his address to the Convention Hall in Charlotte? After all, there is still such a distance to travel from the idea of democracy to what we are experiencing today, so much potential as yet unrealized.
Racial discrimination and attempts at voter suppression are being reported even now, in 2012, more than 50 years after Lewis and other Freedom Riders stood with such dignity, embodying peace, love, and nonviolence in the face of angry mobs who beat them for exercising their rights to be recognized as human.
So many people struggle today against unjust laws and customs that separate them, making them ‘other,’ making them ‘wrong’ for who they are, what they believe in, who they love. And more than ever before, corporations enjoy what more than 85 percent of Americans think is too much power and control over our election process. All of this moves us further away from the values and ideals of a democracy, which, as I understand them, are those deeply spiritual ideals of fairness, justice, equality, peace, care for one’s brothers and sisters. So much threatens to desecrate the sacredness that is our right to vote.
Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of these threats, it seems even more important that we stand in our power and engage in the political process, even more vital that we cherish the possibility that we could together create a more perfect union. Not to vote, not to participate, would be to simply give over our power, turn our back on our morals and on our communities.
How do we join together, sharing power, and taking a strong stand for the spiritual values and ideals we hold dear? There are so many ways to contribute to our communities, to be good to one another, to gracefully but firmly hold one another accountable, to find ways to make a difference. We may think that we just want to do good works, not get involved in politics. But politics is getting involved in us, in our communities, in how we take care of our bodies, shaping the kind of world we are living in. We are already involved, so let’s embrace the opportunity.
It has felt to me for a while now that this place some call the United States of America is at a potent crossroads. Quantum physicists speak of ‘choice points,’ moments in time where the choices we make are especially powerful, carrying a much greater probability of setting in motion one particular set of outcomes, one particular future, over another. The platforms revealed at the conventions over the past few weeks seem to indicate that this election season will indeed be one such ‘choice point’. Whether we choose one of those two futures, or collectively cast some other, we are being called not simply to ‘vote our values’ but to actually find a way to re-inject our values into this process called voting. Our task is to collectively remake our politics as sacred. Not as almost sacred, but as sacred. Are you ready to get out and do that? Who’s with me?