Voting our Future

by JAKE NORTON

November 2018
As I work on my ballot this morning, I’m going to resist the temptation – a very real one – to take the easy road, the comfortable one, and vote a partisan line. Instead, I’ll do my best to digest all I’ve read and researched, to implement my values and vote with my heart, not my wallet; vote with my mind, not my party; vote for the future, not the short-term; vote with compassion for all rather than contempt for and fear of some.

As I sit here on a windy November day, filling out my ballot for the midterm election, I find myself lost in thought, reflecting on the year past, the experiences had, and the murky vision of the future…my future, your future…my kids’ and your kids’ futures…our individual and collective futures.

For me, it’s been a typically busy year, with travels across the country and the globe. I’ve been fortunate to visit old haunts and new locales, to sip tea with old friends and break bread with new ones. I sat with a Catholic nun in rural Guatemala and walked with an imam toward the Bishkek Central Mosque. I laughed and sipped chiyaa with an 80 year old sadhu in Kathmandu and talked over plates of ugali with Pentecostal preachers and community workers in Kenya. I’ve sipped coffee and nibbled a donut with Trumpers in Evergreen and had beers with Berners in Boulder, sharing conversation about that which unites us rather than that which divides. I’ve sat with my friend Luis – an undocumented Mexican who’s been a hard working, dedicated member of our society for 25 years – discussing the state of our world and the futures of our children; I’ve done the same with my friend Kelemu - who spent 14 years in Kakuma Refugee Camp before finally getting permission to come to the USA with his daughter – and works harder and longer and with more dedication than most, happy to be here and contribute to the fabric of our country.

In all these travels and conversations and experiences, the commonality throughout has been simple, profound, and abjectly obvious: there is far more than unites us all than that which divides. The nun and the imam, the sadhu and the preachers, Luis and Kelemu, the Trumpers and the Berners and me…at the end of the day we all want the same essentials: a better tomorrow for ourselves and our families, the chance for a future of promise and opportunity, a life and a world with less war and conflict.

But none of that is visible unless we are willing to drop the veil of partisan rancor, to abandon false division based on melanin or faith or flag, and instead open our minds and our hearts to the reality that we all breathe the same, we all bleed the same, we all fundamentally want the same things even if we have differing modes of accomplishing that end goal. When we let go of the vitriol and the judgment (which I admittedly am guilty of from time to time) and the fear that has so infected all sides of our political landscape, we may begin to see that difference and variety – ethnic, religious, linguistic, politic – are the foundational elements that ever made America great, and are the only forces that will make us great once more, as a people, as a nation, as a world.

So, as I work on my ballot this morning, I’m going to resist the temptation – a very real one – to take the easy road, the comfortable one, and vote a partisan line. Instead, I’ll do my best to digest all I’ve read and researched, to implement my values and vote with my heart, not my wallet; vote with my mind, not my party; vote for the future, not the short-term; vote with compassion for all rather than contempt for and fear of some. I’ll vote for more than me and my own personal, immediate well-being, and instead vote for my community, for my country, for our world, and for those candidates and initiatives and amendments which best serve us all: black or white, left or right, straight or gay, male or female, legal, illegal, or refugee.

A nearly-full moon rises over Mount Tutoko - the highest peak in the Darran Mountains - as viewed from Turner's Bivvy on the shoulder of Mt. Madeline, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.
A nearly-full moon rises over Mount Tutoko - the highest peak in the Darran Mountains - as viewed from Turner's Bivvy on the shoulder of Mt. Madeline, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

We’ll get nowhere fast with increased division; our human community and our natural world cannot stand much more of it.

As Edward Abbey said:

My loyalties will not be bound by national borders, or confined in time by one nation's history, or limited in the spiritual dimension by one language and culture. I pledge my allegiance to the damned human race, and my everlasting love to the green hills of Earth, and my intimations of glory to the singing stars, to the very end of space and time.

And, as my friend Conrad Anker wrote 2 days ago, there’s a lot of pressure to just stick to pretty pictures of mountains and stay out of politics. Well, pretty pictures of mountains have never been my singular focus; discussing the world and its challenges and the possible solutions always have been. If this and my other posts bother you, I apologize, and invite you to unfollow – I’m not going to stop.

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