Kevin and I voted on Friday. The implications of this election for the future of our nation seem so profound that I cast my vote with more passion and satisfaction than in any other election of my life. As a white citizen of the United States who has never been incarcerated, I cast my vote in solidarity with the many people whose political voice in our democracy has been and continues to be undermined. And this year, I dropped my ballot in the box with a salute to the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote.
And yet, I refuse to succumb to the temptation to hitch my wagon to this political season and its outcome. I refuse, but honestly I struggle. As emotions swirl and fear about the outcome — or unclear outcome — rises, how do we stay grounded in another larger reality?
Marilynne Robinson wrote an essay last week in The New York Times about her love for this country. My Anabaptist upbringing formed me not to be uncritically patriotic; perhaps not patriotic at all. But the fact is that I do love this country.
It is a love that I discovered through years of international work and travel that revealed to me the beauty — and also the profound flaws — in all the other nations that I came to know and admire. I have loved other countries as a visitor or a temporary resident; I can easily imagine loving other countries as a citizen. But I love the United States like I love no other nation; I love it not because it is the best or the strongest, but simply because it is my country. I deeply love the land, the people and much (but not all) of the culture here. And therefore I hope for our better future.
This will continue to be my country, regardless of the outcome of this election. Robinson writes:
“Put not your trust in princes,” says the psalmist. “When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” We would also be wise, on these same grounds, not to despair over a political figure, either.
To despair is to lose all hope. I refuse to lose hope in the possibility that creative people will come together in new ways to make things better. I have hope in families, neighborhoods, city councils and churches, and in the small numbers of not-hopelessly-partisan leaders in the halls of state and nation. I prevail in hope that better things can and are being brought about through many actions and conversations on smaller stages.
This hope is fueled by our students here on campus, who clearly care about this election. A recent survey by The Record found that a whopping 96 percent are registered to vote, which exceeds (but parallels) national trends of increasing voter participation by young adults. But our students are also part of other social movements that are grassroots and non-partisan, such as the Sunrise Movement, a national youth coalition focused on ending climate change. Not confident in either party, they are organizing across the partisan divide and paying attention to candidates up and down the tickets.
Personally, I’m struggling to find a sort of engaged detachment. Or detached engagement. In the world and not of it, as Jesus said. It’s actually quite tricky.
Sophomore Alena Miller expressed a similar view in The Record:
“In the end, our loyalty should not be with a party and we should not vote out of civic duty.
As Christians, I believe that our allegiance should be with the Prince of Peace, not with any nation or candidate.
We are called to advocate for true and complete justice, not compromised justice. This means that we are always working and always protesting against oppression, no matter if the candidate we cast a vote for wins or not.”
Our democracy is imperfect, as is our nation. But it is ours and it depends on our participation. I want my vote to be cast and counted. Will you vote too?Rebecca Stoltzfus
NOTE: Indiana residents, you can check your voter registration status and polling location at any time here. And a few other resources for voting, no matter where you live:
- National Association of Secretaries of State – Information about registration, voter ID requirements, and polling places in all 50 states.
- Your Vote, Your Voice – Information about how to vote by absentee ballot.
- Vote 411 – Provides a simple platform to find polling places.
- Vote.org – How to check voter registration, register, find polling locations and even view a countdown to election day.