This is part five of this series of posts by some friends answering this question: In what ways does your faith in Christ impact how you think about and engage with the upcoming presidential election? See the introduction for more info. Also check out part one, part two, part three and part four.
On November 2, 2004, I stood at the little booth in the basement of the Lutheran church on Francisco Ave, looked at my ballot, and cried. If we’ve met, you’re not surprised at this, because you’ve probably seen me cry a million times at anything from a cute puppy to a cell phone commercial. But this time, I cried because I felt helpless. I looked at my choices and considered whether each candidate could make this country a better place for anyone to live. I wondered if either would make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. I thought about the 50 homeless guys I knew were hanging out around the corner, and wondered which choice would be better for them. I thought about my dad and his buddies, many of them disabled veterans, and thought about which choice would honor them, and which choice might actually help them. I wondered whether either of my choices was the “Christian” choice- what was I supposed to do, compose a list of Christian values and pick whoever came closest to embodying more of the items of my list? I thought about people who felt so passionate about one candidate being the right one, and who wondered out loud, “How could you possibly be a Christian and vote for HIM?” There was no good choice. I picked, went home, and cried some more.
On March 18 of this year, I cried once again in a random location. I had been visiting a student who was doing an internship in the pediatric intensive care unit of the University of Illinois Medical Center. After we met, I stepped off the elevator into a packed, silent waiting room. The crowd was diverse- patients, staff, and guests; every age, many races and ethnicities…all sitting in silence, mesmerized by the television. It was as if they were watching the moon landing. No one spoke, and no one looked away from the screen. Barack Obama was talking about race, the issue we can “no longer afford to ignore.” I grabbed a spot on the floor (every seat was taken) watched, and cried. I was listening to this man talk OUT LOUD to the entire country about things I have cried about in private, or with close friends, and wondered if they would ever be an acceptable topic of conversation in the public forum. The issue of race, in all its depth and ugliness, is so entwined in the way this country became what it is today and in the way it continues to operate, and yet it has become so taboo that we aren’t supposed to talk about it, and we certainly aren’t supposed to vote with race in mind. But on this day, I felt like all of us in the hospital waiting room and in the United States were being invited to start a conversation, or to bring our private conversations into the light. I felt like, for the first time, someone was saying out loud to the world that because of faith in Christ, we HAVE to talk about it. No more colorblind handholding; it’s time to get real with each other.
So Barack Obama is getting my vote. I’m not just voting for him because he gives me the warm fuzzies either; I agree with much of what he stands on. But not everything; I don’t think he’s perfect. I don’t think his opponent is perfect either, nor do I disagree with everything he says. But this time, I’m pretty sure if I cry in the voting both (who am I kidding; I should say WHEN I cry…), it will be because I feel like I am making a choice that will lead us to “a more perfect union”- if everyone would just participate in a conversation that before has been taboo, un-Christian, or has seemed irrelevant their own life, I think it will be a little easier to get up in the morning.
Katie is involved with community development and affordable housing issues. She recently moved home to Boston’s South Shore from Chicago’s Logan Square.