|The baby boy in this picture will be 12 years old in four days.|
Leo was born just a few days after Election Day of 2000. I had fully expected the election itself would be over and done with by the time our boy arrived (it wasn't), and had never thought that a slippery buffoon like George W. Bush could become president (e.g., he lost the popular vote). That election, and Dubya's country club-style presidency, popped the earnest bubble of beliefs in which I was living, made me realize I was taking the pervasiveness of democratic and liberal ideals for granted.
Still eager and dewy-eyed, I became convinced that all I had to do to convince someone they had placed their faith in the wrong candidate or cause was show them the facts, show them evidence. Because who wouldn't put their faith in what I considered demonstrable truth?
Twelve years later, I no longer believe in evidence as a trump card. Facts don't convince true believers, they make them retrench
What can we do? I've been writing a lot about acceptance lately, and I guess another form of acceptance is understanding that some people cannot process what they don't want to hear. Acknowledging that true believers want things simplified and palatable -- they do not want to wrap their heads around complexity, even if they think they do, like billionaire Leon Cooperman
-- who took two painstaking weeks to write a screed about Obama's "divisive language" that then turned viral, yet who considers our President's background as a community activist, law professor, successful author, & senator as "never having worked a day in his life." Yet I also know repeated exposure can bore through rock, and so ideally through rock-hard beliefs. I have to believe that people want
to think, they just aren't always encouraged to do so.
For a while, I thought avoiding direct engagement or not citing names while persistently speaking out was the best way to get messages out. That if one must confront reductionist true believers, then a calm and professional attitude would enhance the very rightness
of the right messages. Staying on message, unflappably, would eventually get through to ... if not the zealots, possibly those in the zealots' thrall. But, as we saw in the first Obama-Romney debate
, behaving like an adult when the opposition goes on a By Any Means Necessary rampage makes one look flat, uninvested, and lacking in conviction.
So what is the right approach? I'm circling back towards speaking the truth and calling out falsehoods while avoiding outright smackdowns, the model Obama deployed in the second and third debates. I'm still working on it, because I'm an easily-riled hot head (e.g., anti-vaccination paragraph above). I can't stand by and watch people like Mitt "Tax Returns
" Romney lie and evade and spin, and not call them on it. But I can avoid sinking to their level, can avoid treating people as unthinking, gullible sheep.
Twelve years later, we're all lining up to the polls again. Or trying to
. And hoping that our votes will actually be counted
And I'm no longer that innocent expectant mother of 2000, who believed democracy and integrity would prevail because duh
. I'm terrified that four years of Republican obstructionism will come to fruition at the polls tomorrow.
My vote is my way of speaking out in defense of what is ethical and what is just, a near-sacred duty as it means speaking for my children, who cannot yet participate. I do not know what their future holds, but if they are disabled, LGBT, unemployed, impoverished, or unexpectedly pregnant -- disadvantaged in any way -- I want them to live in a country that treats them with respect, dignity, and understanding. As fellow citizens. As the citizens their immigrant grandparents were able to become, via a process that brought every non-Native American to this country, FFS. And I want that respect and dignity and understanding -- what's right
, not what's soothing to believe or easy to hear -- to prevail in our country, now
That is why I'm voting for Obama.