Monday, November 10, 2008

Two Sundays ago at the "Dinner at Mom's House" I did something pretty difficult. It was a long time coming and hard to do, but I could no longer sit idly by. I had to tell them. I came out to my parents.

I said, "I know you won't agree with this, but I have to be true to myself. I'm voting for Obama."

My wife, of course, wasn't surprised. She has known for quite a while. My stepdad left the room. My mom had lots of questions.

You should know that eight years ago I voted for Nader, just for spite, and four years ago I voted for Bush. I felt it was my duty to do so. I was asked to speak in church during that election cycle and I gave a thinly-veiled, pro-Bush speech. I swallowed Karl Rove's baited hook without hesitation.

So, like my mom, you may be wondering what has happened during these last four years to make me jump ship. You may ask, as my mom did, if I have changed my mind about abortion or about the importance of the traditional family in our society.

Here's how I explained it to her:

When I voted for Bush four years ago, it wasn't because I liked him, or felt he was a good person or a great leader. It was more in spite of my feelings to the contrary. I felt it was my duty to support Bush because I believed that on his watch abortion would be curtailed and family values would be supported. These are issues of morality. And while I know that not everyone agrees with my convictions, I felt that Bush did, and that these particular moral issues were of the utmost importance. (I don't know if you've noticed, but Bush didn't do a whole lot to support these issues anyway.)

I recall John Kerry during one of the debates saying, "you can't legislate morality." And I said to myself, "Well then what are you supposed to legislate, you smarmy creep? Of course you have to legislate morality. All law is based on morality. The law is a moral code. We outlaw murder, theft and rape because they are immoral acts."

But this year I realized something. I don't think the phrase, "you can't legislate morality" means to remove moral questions from the purview of the law. I think that what it means is that laws aren't going to make people abide by a moral code. Rather, laws reflect the moral code of a society. If our society degenerated to the degree that other fallen cultures have, new legislation would do little to curtail an increase in murder, theft, and rape.

For this reason, I believe that education and public discourse on the issues will always trump legislation. Teaching moral principles will do more to stem the decline of our society than pushing legislation.

In the same way I voted for Bush on moral issues, I also felt it was imperative to vote for Obama. While he may not agree with me on the issues that made me inclined to support Bush, I have decided that there are other moral issues which have been ignored under the current administration. I question the morality of preemptive war, of corporate welfare. I don't feel good about the unbridled greed and rampant consumerism we embrace in the face of hunger, poverty and squalor throughout the world. I'm certain that America as a nation will experience a greater peace and a reduced risk of terror attacks if we beat our swords into plowshares and help other nations grow. Enforcing peace with the threat or use of violence is unacceptable in our own homes and it should be unacceptable to us as a nation. I'm not so naive as to think that once the new administration is sworn in wars will end. But I hope that we can pursue a course that will secure peace through increased diplomacy and decreased force. An enemy never becomes a friend by being beaten into submission.

According to the local paper, Provo is the reddest city in America. A smaller percentage of voters here supported Obama than any other city. Being in such a small minority is somewhat unsettling. I have been very careful what I say, and to whom I say it. A good friend and neighbor of mine very strongly disagrees with me politically, and I have no desire to adversely affect that friendship. Under these circumstances it would be easy to just not vote, or vote for Santa Claus for that matter, because it really wouldn't make any difference here. That's why I'm writing this. My vote may not matter much to the Utah electorate, but hopefully the people who read this will consider these ideas and recognize that I'm not part of some lunatic fringe.

I was getting a haircut the day before the election, and another man was telling the barber how Obama is a muslim terrorist who hates America and wants to make us socialists. I have received emails from people with good intentions which have said the same things. All this fear-mongering is so childish and counter-productive. This man who will be our president is a good man who, like Senator McCain, loves this country and her people. He has excited the electorate in a way that no candidate has in recent years. And he has done so on a platform of optimism, courage and dignity. If you dislike Senator Obama, I hope it will be because you disagree with him on the issues, rather than because you believe the false claims that continue to circulate about him.

That pretty much sums it up. I don't want to start a political debate here. I just wanted to explain my feelings about this election. I'm excited for our country and the direction we're headed. I feel more patriotic lately than I have in quite a while. I know a lot of my friends and family see things differently, and I respect that, but I think it says a lot about the greatness of America that a man like Barack Obama has been elected our president.