11.05.2012

Rights and Compassion: Why I'm Voting for Obama

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. Examples:
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.

8 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:22 PM

    Some day, almost certainly, autism will be diagnosed in utero. If Roe v. Wade is not overturned, kids like your son and mine will never get a chance to be quirky because they'll be torn limb from limb "for their own good". It's already the norm for Down syndrome kids. Is that sympathy? Is that respect? That's why I'm voting against Obama.

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    1. Evelyn Manley9:35 AM

      My son was diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero. As it turns out, he was recently diagnosed as autistic as well, at age 2. It's not science that causes abortion. People can use the information gleaned from prenatal testing in many ways. In my case, I used it to change medical facilities--from one out in the country with no NICU, to one in a big city with a Childrens Hospital next door, & I chose an excellent perinatologist to get me & my darling through a very dangerous pregnancy. I used it to prepare myself for the fact that my son would be different, so when he was born, I was full of love & relief & joy, & not mourning the typical child I thought he would be. Prenatal testing doesn't force people into abortion. They make that choice for themselves.

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  2. Conflating reproductive choice and eugenics is certainly an easy stance to take when one is Anonymous.

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  3. I voted for Obama too. I always feel so much better when I read your posts, Shannon. Even if Romney wins it tonight, I will be comforted by the fact that there are smart, compassionate women like you in this world and that you are fighting for our kids with your gifted writing voice. Thank you.

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  4. P.S. Happy Birthday to Leo!

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. Thanks Becky, for your vote and for your kind words. I am lucky to be surrounded by smart people, and learn from them.

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  7. What needs to be considered is that though Republicans love the fetus, they hate the child and any person that might need help.

    Republicans support health insurance companies over people, would deny health care to those with pre-existing conditions, while also cutting medicaid, medicare, social security, education, and other services that families and an individual with Autism will most likely need in their lifetime.

    Democrats and other progressive parties want to maintain and/or strengthen those programs.

    Regarding the first person that commented is that abortion happens in many instances for a lot of reasons.

    Voting Republican means taking away your decision of what to do in any pregnancy situation while also taking away every available support system you'd need if you wanted to bring a child with challenges into the world. That to me, immediately equates to more suicides, higher instances of child abuse, child murder, homelessness, poverty, crime...what alternative would people have?

    That and there are 100 other reasons why the Democratic vote is better for America when looking at the two parties.

    I'm so relieved Obama won!

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Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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