Vote for more

Since I walked into my first polling place in 1976, I have experienced any number of emotions as I cast my ballot. Sometimes it was with idealistic enthusiasm (Mo Udall – Google it), sometimes it was with determination to change the world (Barack Obama). This Tuesday will be the first election day when I cast my ballot with an overwhelming sense of grief, and a stomach-churning sense of fear.

I’m sure many of you will be motivated by your own emotions, whether you support or oppose the Trump Administration and the effect it has had on our country. I can speak only of my own experience, particularly over the last few weeks.

The breaking point for me was with the discussion around the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh. It wasn’t his legal philosophy that bothered me – one of the most liberal courts ever to be seated in this country was made up, in large part, of conservative appointees. No, it was the full-scale, nationwide attack on women that was launched. It was women blaming their sisters for sexual assault because of the clothing they wore. It was the total lack of empathy or even factual knowledge about how sexual assaults are reported. It was the President of the United States saying that this was a dangerous time to be a man because any woman, at any time, could pop up and scream rape.

I grew up in a time when it was still perfectly acceptable to tell girls there were things they could not do, or must do, because of their gender. The message was sent loud and clear, with frequency: You are less. That is a feeling you do not forget. I remember crying in a high school classroom after the school board said girls couldn’t have sports teams. It had nothing to do with a burning desire to dribble a basketball, believe me. It was the message from the people in control, the people in authority: You are less.

I sat in a courtroom and listened to arguments that race had nothing to do with the assault on a local black man. Slinging racial slurs and proudly wearing the insignia of a white nationalist hate group were just unlucky coincidences. They couldn’t possibly be sending a message to the victim: You are less.

There is no doubt that was the message being sent to the worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and to the black people gunned down in a Kentucky store shortly before the Pittsburgh attack.

Believe it or not, it was the message that was being sent to the many opponents of the current administration who received explosive devices in the mail. They had opinions that conflicted with those of the President, which meant they were no longer as human, no longer as deserving of not being killed. And this same hateful intolerance was very much at the front of merciless attacks on a local Presbyterian minister who passionately spoke out in defense of her Squirrel Hill neighbors. At a time when we all should have been shocked into examining our own hearts, a segment of our population was sending death threats to someone whose only crime was not toeing the line of the political and moral philosophy that is pouring from the very top echelons of our government.

I enjoy political debate, or at least I used to. My father was as hard-headed as I was, and our debates took on the nature of a game, one that I would always win because I knew his Achilles heel. “What do you know?” I would say, “You voted for Richard Nixon.” To which he would always respond, “Only the first time!” We would walk away, neither changing our positions, and that was fine.

Those were the good old days. Today, we have to fear for our lives because in the eyes of too many, we are less. Our religion. our political views, our gender, our race, our ethnicity is so fundamentally wrong in their eyes that we are no longer deserving of even the basic human right to breathe.

So this election day, I will cast my vote for the candidates who see me not as less, but as more than some would have me be. In the past we may have voted for fiscal responsibility or national security. This year, we will vote for the right to be respected and valued as human beings.