Sometimes being interested at all in politics feels like a large and overwhelming process of simply hoping to avoid disappointment and disillusionment. A large part of me thinks that voting and a lot of the political process and governmental machine is an impractical and unrealistic vehicle in which to place hope and trust for real change. This is not to say that I don't think that at times our government or other governments have practiced elements of justice and goodness in our world, but in the spirit of many of the prophets of old, and in the spirit of many of the new, it is really hard to justify spending so much time reading, watching, and thinking about structures of power that seem to be spinning its wheels in mud that just ends up leaving the car stuck, and the people trying to push the car out from behind dirty and covered in mud.
I've given a lot of serious consideration to not voting this election. Maybe it just isn't worth it. Maybe I just need to spend time living the changes I hope to see and stop reading things that just make me mad or disappointed. Maybe voting is participating in a structure that ultimately goes against what I think are the hopes and dreams of God for our world. Is voting actually making me complicit with the "powers that be" in a way that I am to be held responsible for its crimes or failures that perpetuate violence, socio-economic injustice, racist tendencies, or exploitation in the name of freedom and democracy?
But this post, by Anthony Smith (Musings of a Postmodern Negro), struck a cord in my heart about a month and a half ago. It's a perspective that I haven't been able to shake. I think that it helps to articulate for me a sense of appropriated participation in government. Anthony helps me to reconcile some of my issues of participation in government because he points out a couple of important issues (not that these are all clear from his post, but hit on some things I have been thinking about):
1) Not voting is only a viable choice of a privileged people who have not known what it is like to not have the right to vote
2) Participation in government, especially in terms of voting can provide a change in leadership that certainly matters and will imply different policies, practices, and actions.
3) A lesser evil is still a lesser evil, and since my deepest hope is in another King and Kingdom, as long as I recognize the powers that be for who and what they are in contrast to this alternative way of living, participation in the governmental structures are still really important.
4) It is really important to remember the sin and inequality of the past and to work hard to discern how that impacts the present and will continue to inform the future if change is not sought in the here and now.
So, I am going to be voting this election. I am going to vote, because it is my responsibility as a follower of Jesus to do my best to hear the voice of the marginalized and voice-less in our country and abroad, i.e. the voice of my neighbors, and do my best to vote for the person and administration that will enact more of the practices that make equal the playing field economically, live out justice, break down walls of racial discrimination, are less violent, and more helpful to all people, not just the ones who typically benefit from the system. Voting to look out only for me and my pocket book and my own moral choices cannot be the only viable option (or perhaps a viable option at all in many circumstances?).
But I am voting not as one who is placing all my chips on the government to be the best hope for the world. I have no false conceptions that our government (or any government for that matter) is capable of fulfilling the hopes and dreams of God for our world in a finalized or fully realized manner. While governments may participate and play a role in justice being lived out, the kingdom of God and governments are not synonymous, and it is when they become synonymous that as Christians we must speak up and offer another voice because a lot of things have been done in the name of God and country that certainly cannot be of God. So I am going to be voting this year. And I will keep paying attention, but I will place my hope in a kingdom that is for the here and now, but is not controlled by one government, one political party, or perpetuated through violence. So here is to hoping to avoid disappointment and disillusionment by participating in the political process with an ear open to the truth-tellers of our generation.