Monday, October 10, 2016

No Longer Silent

I have been asked several times in the past months just exactly what I think of the election or politics. In other cases I have pointedly NOT been asked about it--maybe people have a feeling I will give an earful and so they very carefully AVOID asking me the question. I think after this past weekend, and the latest scandal (what is this like 1,257 for Trump), I just can't keep things to myself any longer. For what it is worth, here are some of my thoughts.

In my yearbook from 9th grade (1990) I was named the person most likely to be the first female president, even though I'd never made office in the many times that I had run. I'm happy to say that Mrs. Clinton will get there first.

I have been a Hilary Clinton fan for a long time. It was hard for me to support Obama in 2008, though ultimately I did, even in the primary, because I had watched his career for a couple of years leading up to the primaries, and found him a new and exciting choice. Still, even as a youngish Democrat, it felt like I was turning my back on the first viable female candidate ever. (I discount Geraldine Ferraro because Mondale was never really in that race.) I was thrilled when I found out she was going to stand by Obama and that party, and mostly by our country, and continue in public service.

But my interest in Clinton goes back even further. I remember in high school, when I still imagined I was a Republican because my parents were, hearing a respected family member bag on Rodham-Clinton. For her hyphenated last name. For her outspoken versus demure support of her husband. For her appointment to look into problems with our nation's health care, rather than just go to libraries and read. For her one child. For her career that was a little bit too much stand-up-to-your-man instead of stand-by-your-man. The rhetoric bothered me. Was such a feeling toward Mrs. Clinton the "right" way to feel? Why was it not okay to feel a little thrill when she boldly declared, "Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights!"?

So even in the mid-nineties, I saw a little bit of Clinton in myself. The girl with the binders who always thought she had the answer. The one who was teased from time-to-time because you were just too smart. The one never quite pretty (funny/friendly/popular) enough to win the election to help plan school activities, even if you knew that if the other kids would just give you a chance you could really shine. The one who eagerly awaited that move to college where you could really be yourself--become a Democrat even when your parents were Republicans, for example.

I'm a pragmatist. I like the establishment. I was with Hilary Clinton before, during and after Bernie Sanders. Her strongest left positions now are those picked up from Sanders to win over his supporters. She has been, from the beginning, the most centrist candidate in the election.

My purpose for clearing the air, here, in my support for Clinton, is twofold. First, to explain that my support for her is unequivocal (yes, I've done my homework, please don't ask) and, secondly, to explain why the Democratic party continues to be my party of choice, despite my roots in conservative religion, and my continued adherence to Mormon doctrine and principles. Earlier in the year I wrote a Facebook post asserting my right to wear all these hats as I saw fit, without input or judgment from others. The post came in the aftermath of a dear friend being told that God wanted her to vote for Trump. I nearly threw up in my mouth a little bit--even before his charming locker-room talk. Around the same time, I created an account through LDS Living's website so that I could comment, in particular in support of the piece Clinton wrote (or had written) for the Deseret News. I was vilified and roasted in the forum. By my brothers and sisters. I felt sick all day.

So here are my reasons, as well as my LDS doctrinal understanding after each point, take what you will from them. But please know, I am working very, very hard this election to allow my friends to wear their many hats too. Not to judge those who disagree with me as stupid, misled, ignorant, or evil; I recognize all too well that many on the "other side" see me with the same four adjectives. And it hurts me, profoundly. Because you know what? Words do matter. What we say about one another, anonymously or otherwise, reflects who we are as individuals. Who we are as a nation.

Reason #1: There are some things the government can just do better. I will elaborate below. Systems do become unwieldy and problematic, agreed. Life grows increasingly complicated, and no doubt anyone who has come face-to-face with the bureaucracy of the federal government will have a lot to say on the subject. But there are some things that are better done collectively, and I believe that besides providing for the common defense our government is well within its rights to tax for the general "welfare" (a word from the constitution) of its people. I interpret this phrasing in the Constitution broadly.  I will elaborate on some of these "general welfare" type situations in the reasons below.

    LDS thoughts: The church is an institution. If everything could be done just as well privately we wouldn't need a church either. The weight of the church's influence and, yes, money, greatly stretches my reach to do good and influence others. Similarly, as I pay income taxes, I can stretch the reach of my blessings to help defend my country, provide health care for children, maintain public parks, educate children in poverty, help storm-ravaged communities, etc. etc. I think these are all good things. On my own I could not accomplish them, nor am I foolish enough to think that if I was allowed to stop paying all income tax tomorrow that I would have the moral strength to donate to all the places that help is needed. Taxes, like my tithing, help keep me honest about my own sense of worth and entitlement.

Reason #2: I care deeply about public education. To me, public education is at the very core of an informed electorate. I've spoken often in this forum about education and will, no doubt, continue to do so. Even as I understand the reasoning the that motivates school choice, homeschool, charter school, etc. etc., I remain deeply committed to my career choice as an educator in public schools, as well as the decision to send my own children to the same diverse and dynamic school in which I work. In our school we are a microcosm of the larger world; it is a place my children can practice navigating the world they will one day inhabit and help make better. Free and fair public education for all is a cornerstone of progressive thought.

     LDS Thoughts: We believe that the only thing we take with us into the next life is our knowledge. Our earliest prophet (Joseph Smith) was unequivocal in his revelations that knowledge was meant to be secular as well as spiritual. Fundamental global inequities stem largely from who we choose to educate and how we choose to educate them. The glory of God is intelligence.

Reason #3: I love science. Deeply and whole-heartedly. There were times in my graduate level evolution course that my heart and my head were in complete and total agreement with what I learned, as they have been in many sciencey-learning moments since. For those LDS readers, this head/heart combination has meaningful implications. I embrace new ideas and advancements as the birthright given to us by Divine Parents. To resist change is to stunt our own growth and evolution--our spiritual evolution. As for the environment, I Ching put it best saying, "What has been destroyed by man's fault can be made good again through his work." I cannot subscribe to any political party that rejects science in order to play politics and promote exploitation of the earth's resources for short term gain over long term sustainability. I really dislike anti-intellectualism and think it is a recipe for disaster if our world is going to continue to advance.

    LDS Thoughts: Our scriptures are replete with examples of people destroyed by their pride and arrogance. While some might argue that this is the result of scientific thinking, I would dispute that. Scientific thinking can humble you in what you don't know, give deep and lasting awe for the brilliance of the Creator, and allow us to stop blaming God for everything that we don't like about human nature. Additionally, there is no shortage of revelation concerning the need for us to be wise stewards of the earth that has been given us. To shrug off environmental problems or kick them down the road is to scoff at the remarkable gift of the earth that we have been given.

Reason #4: I hate abortion. Wait, what? I said I was a Democrat. Hear me out here. Abortion is not the root of the problem. Abortion is horrible, horrible symptom of much deeper systemic problems--Lack of education and ambition for young people, ignorance, poverty, desperation, etc. etc. A person who has an abortion has no good choices left. How do we give people more agency? More good choices earlier on? Until we can be begin to work on these fundamental, underlying issues, abortion will never be solved. Shouting about caring for the life of the unborn is pretty poor form from politicians who routinely defund programs aimed at helping women and children and the poor. Additionally, few things have allowed for the advancement of modern society as much as women being able to choose how many children to have and how often to have those children. There is nothing more fundamental to a woman's mental health than this choice about children. To this end, companies that offer health insurance have an obligation to do so in a way that does not put them in a position of deciding for women what is acceptable and unacceptable as far as birth control goes. If control over my childbearing is fundamental to my mental and physical health, then my employer should not get to decide for me what childbearing (or prevention of childbearing) looks like.

     LDS Thoughts: We cannot care more about unborn children than we do the ones already taking breath. They need our defense as well--both here and abroad. More pro-life Democrats are needed, just as more pro-social program Republicans are needed if we are to truly live out our doctrine in public life. I've seen people who are suffering deeply because of the poor choices of other people. Agency is fundamental to what we teach--no choices we make here can throw a monkey wrench into God's plan. Isn't it better that a spirit waits for another situation rather than come to one where they aren't wanted?

Reason #5: I think people are fundamentally good, and I think you find what you are looking for. I have worked for 20 years now with children from a huge variety of backgrounds and experiences. I've seen kids do awful things, and I've seen kids do amazing things. Most of my teaching years have involved working very closely with people not of my faith. All these years have taught me a few fundamental things--most people are doing the very best they can in the circumstances they are in. The hardest kids can express unexpected kindness. They can be taught. Everyone wants to feel loved; and when they are, it is easier to reciprocate it. I reject rhetoric that builds on an us vs. them mentality that only seeks to divide and incite fear.

      LDS Thoughts: We hear a lot of rhetoric about "how evil the world is getting." You know, I think the reality is that the world has always been evil. It might be true that it is more open now because we have more media, but I don't think human nature has changed all that much in millennia. Again, I think you find what you are looking for. If you look for it, you can help others feel free to express it more often. Even people who totally reject commandments and religion can express deep and lovely goodness and partner with people of faith in building strong communities that are good for families.

These are some of my main reasons for my choice to be in the Democratic party, even as most others in my faith, particularly in the western US, have chosen to be Republicans. I credit Ezra Taft Benson with much of that, but that is a very different story. I have a lot more ideas about how fix things I view as deeply and systemically problematically, but that will have to keep for another day as well.

For now, I just felt that I needed to say that I stand unreservedly with Hilary Clinton. I don't think she is perfect, far from it, but she has devoted her life to public service in a way that I cannot even imagine. She is more qualified than any person EVER to run for president, male or female. Her Senate colleagues praise her ability to work across the aisle--in this era of divisiveness, most of those Republicans that would speak respectfully about her abilities and presence in the Senate have been foolishly ousted by the most extreme elements of their party. Mrs. Clinton is at her best when she strolls into a cafe and asks people to talk to her about their problems. She listens, deeply and carefully, seeking to understand and not offering to fix every problem, but to let us regular gals (and guys) know that she hears their valuable perspective. She was once like me--a girl too smart for her own good in a world dominated by men and an often overbearing father who told her just to tough it out when she got discouraged.

It is time that America took its place in the world with a female head of state. It has taken nearly 100 years of national suffrage for women to make this happen. This is a moment in history that cannot be overlooked. It is utterly ridiculous to say that they choices are "both equally bad." To put this outstanding and complicated woman in the same category as Trump is to miss the point entirely.

In November I will cast a ballot that will make me part of history. One day I will have happy tears in my eyes when I tell my granddaughters of voting for the first female president, that my little voice helped to put her in that awesome position of influence and power. That in my small way I cast a vote for ushering in the new and forward-looking, while rejecting the ugliest things about male power. It is just a vote, and not even in swing state, but it is MY vote. And MY voice. My one little voice will join many . . . not as many as I had hoped, but enough. Nobody said breaking this last glass ceiling would be easy. It's a good thing our candidate is tough as nails.

Go Hilary!!!


Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I wonder if people who think all faithful Mormons are Republican are aware that President James E. Faust was a lifelong Democrat who served in the Utah House of Representatives, and was chairman of the Utah State Democratic Party. I'm an Independent myself, and I think both parties have their strengths and drawbacks, but I always say that if the Democratic Party was good enough for a member of the First Presidency, it's good enough for anyone.

I've voted for Democrats before, but never for president. I'm leaning toward doing that for the first time this year, though. There are some things that concern me about Hillary's ethics and policies, but I respect her intelligence and grit, and I think she will be an effective leader. As for her opponent, I'm frankly horrified at the idea of putting him in the driver's seat of our country. The few people I've talked to who support him seem to do so mainly because they don't like things about Hillary Clinton, as if an unappealing Democrat automatically makes the Republican a better choice.

I wonder what would happen if you stripped away the party labels and simply asked someone which person sounds like a better choice for president: 1) A disciplined, smart, idealistic woman who hasn't been completely forthcoming about her past emails, but who has a proven track record of public service in Congress and abroad, or 2) a reckless, boorish, lewd, bigoted man with questionable business ability and no public service experience who fosters anger and distrust at every turn.

SS said...

Well said. Bravo.

Brooke said...

I'm with her. And you. 😘