I’m generally an optimistic person.
I throw in a little bit of realism to that optimism, but I spend far too much time in my head dreaming about a better future and believing that a better future is possible. It’s how I approach my classroom when I believe that a new teaching method will transform the way my students learn, whether or not the attempt works the way I imagine it will. It’s the way I plan our family vacations, whether we see everything that we wanted to see or we end up sidelined for several days after a breakdown. It’s the way I parent, believing that my imperfect children are capable of great things, while honestly assessing the traits that may hold them back.
And it’s the way that I vote.
I’m a big picture person, a dreamer of epic proportions who struggles with follow through. I consider how I want something to look, I dream big, and then I depend on others to help me make that dream a reality.
I’m in a constant state of understanding that even if things are good they could always be better. And instead of just collecting a laundry list of all the things that are wrong with society, I prefer to spend my time finding solutions for the problems that plague society, even when those problems aren’t directly affecting me.
We were created to be interdependent beings. We should be able to depend on each other to be fighting for something better for everyone, not just ourselves, because we should understand that what negatively impacts our neighbor could also negatively impact us in the future.
And that understanding drives how I vote.
Politicians are famous for making big promises. The old joke that politicians are liars and untrustworthy is frequently more truthful than we would like it to be. It starts with student council president speeches and teenagers making promises about changing school policies that they don’t have the power to change and ends with presidents running for office making massive promises without the acknowledgement that the president doesn’t make the laws, Congress does.
Politicians also can’t foresee the future. When FDR ran as a president who was going to get the United States out of a depression, he didn’t know that he would also have to get her through a war. When George H.W. Bush promised no new taxes, he didn’t see that those new taxes (which most historians have said was the right thing to do) were going to be absolutely essential for the government to function. When George W. Bush made big promises for domestic policy, he didn’t know that terrorists were going to attack on September 11 and he was going to become a wartime president. When Barack Obama made big promises for big reform, he had no way of knowing that the American people would nervously respond to the ACA by electing the opposing party to Congress, blocking the additional reforms that he had planned and promised.
But despite the roadblocks, one thing all men had in common is that they didn’t run on fear, they ran on hope.
They weren’t looking to recapture the past, they were looking to create a better future. They were imperfect humans who faced opposition from friends and foes alike, but they looked forward, not backward.
And that is how I vote.
Hope is forward looking. Hope is change seeking. Hope understands that there is something better on the other side and fights to move ahead.
Because of hope I still brought two beautiful children into the world because I believe that despite the struggles facing us right now, a better future is possible and they can be a part of that.
Because of hope my husband and I jumped into buying a house that was an absolute mess, believing that we could make it something beautiful. And by the time we moved out, the house was many times better than when we moved in.
Because of hope I believe in a loving and merciful God who delivered hope in the form of a baby in a manger who grew to die on a cross, wiping away my sin.
Because of hope I vote for politicians who offer people opportunity in the form of helping hands, not handouts. Who lift people up instead of holding them down. Who see change as a positive inevitability instead of something to fear.
I will never choose to look backward to a time when America was great, because it can always, always be better. I will never choose to seek the perfect candidates down the ballot because that person doesn’t exist, but I will vote for the people with plans to move forward. I will vote for those with a plan for a better future, always a better future.
I’m not just voting for me. I’m voting for the world I want my children to grow up in, I’m voting for the future I want for my students, and I’m voting to better the lives of my neighbors.
And that requires that I leave fear behind.