I wasn’t going to put yet another opinion about who to vote for, blah, blah, blah, on the interwebs, but, well, I felt I had to. I’d like to say that I don’t really care who you vote for, that the important thing is that you DO vote. But that’s not fully true. I do care who you vote for, and it DOES matter to me. Now, I can’t make you believe in my point of view any more than you can convince me that I should believe in God, or that I should have 12 babies. We all have our own paths in life, and we all have the right to do as we see fit.
In the wake of the storm surge that inundated the Northeast last week, and in light of my fervent belief that with great power comes great responsibility, I felt it was right to talk about it. Responsibility. People on the (political) right speak of ‘personal responsibility‘ a great deal, and they speak of things like liberty, freedom, and other abstract notions of basically doing whatever the fuck you want, whenever you want to do it. (Maybe they don’t mean it that way, but the deregulation that many of them call for makes me believe that they don’t really believe that we are responsible to one another, for better or worse.) I don’t believe in that sort of way of thinking about culture, society, and each other.
Ok, sure, you want to own a gun, and I don’t want to stop you. But I don’t want you to shoot me. So, what do we do? We make rules, and we abide by them. We all agree on some basic things: it’s not okay to murder, steal, torture, etc., so we enlist law enforcement and legal systems to deal with people who break those rules. What strikes me as odd, however, is how often the plea for basic health services is seen as some sort of lazy entitlement; or, how the desire to care for a people’s elderly or infirmed (and I include mental health in this) is seen as weak, or unnecessary. These so-called ‘social programs’ are there to protect the greater population from the failure to look after our weaker, or harder hit citizens.
We all share in the benefits of having a huge country, with plenty of natural resources, coastal ports to import and export goods from, from the ability to feed our own people from our own land, and to engage with the world from a position of great economic power. But, with that power comes the responsibility to look after our own – when the storm surge hit the entire coast of New Jersey, vast swaths of New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island, did we as a nation say to ourselves ‘eh, too bad for them, eh?’ No. We commended the efforts of our political leaders to put aside the petty squabbling to do what is right. To use some of our collective power to protect those weakened by circumstance, and to prevent further loss of life by bringing precious resources to those without. (Which, by the way, is the point of having a welfare and publicly funded healthcare system is meant to do – protect those weakened by circumstance.) Some say that this process should be privatized, that these sorts of situations are great for business. That someone should profit from disaster. I say we are responsible for one another, to one another, and that collectively we will benefit from this social contract. I say, a well-managed, well-run, centralized government is the right way to go about protecting ourselves, and ensuring that we will all prosper and thrive.
Does this make me a communist? I doubt it. A socialist? Who cares? Is a capitalist so much better? It makes me crazy to think that principles that make up many of the religions that these same people say guide them are being tossed aside in favor of making a buck off of someone’s misfortune. Do I think that we have room for improvement for our government? Absolutely. But I don’t believe that tossing an entire population out in the cold in favor of ‘freedom’ is the right thing to do, either.
Anyway, we are responsible for ourselves. Responsible for our vote. Responsible to make our voices heard, and responsible to make others aware that they, too, can have a voice. Responsible to educate our young, for the children are our future. (Teach them well, and let them lead the way.) Responsible to grow our nation’s ideals in the face of a growing and diverse population. Responsible to listen to each other, to protect each other from harm, but to let each other learn by doing that which is hard, too. So vote. Vote for what YOU believe in. Vote for what matters to YOU. Vote because so many can’t, or couldn’t, for a long, long time. Vote, and prove that collectively we care about what happens to each other. Vote.