My brother and I were in Chicago on Sunday of Labor Day weekend; my incessant gushing about the city and its relative proximity to Ann Arbor, combined with a glorious late summer day, prompted us to hop into a rental car, book a hotel on Michigan Avenue, and take in as much of the city as thirteen hours would afford.
While passing the Bean (ahem, excuse me, “Cloud Gate”) and waiting for a signal change, a slightly elderly woman at the crosswalk noticed my exceedingly-maize Michigan shirt and mentioned that one of her children attended our fine institution. Apparently, this commonality was enough of an inroad for her to engage in a discussion about politics, and it merely consisted of two questions: for whom would I vote, and in what state I’d do it.
When I responded with “Either Obama or a third-party candidate” and “Michigan”, the response was succinct: “You’re wasting your vote!” No, this wasn’t an ardent McCain supporter, but she was shocked that I could possibly comprehend the concept of voting for…::Gasp::…a third-party candidate! Our conversation lasted several blocks, all the way from the River to John Hancock, and I just hope I didn’t make her lose hope in the young people of our nation. 😉
I mention this story because it’s a prologue to the intensely emotional events of the past 24 hours that nobody in America can ignore. A student in my Trade Policy class, someone who’s never said a word in the course nor I have I seen crack a smile other than in social settings, was as giddy as a Kindergartner that just chomped down on a Crayola without inhibition. Last evening, I shared a toast of champagne with a handful of my classmates as we all watched Barack give his epic, epic oratory. I didn’t vote for the guy, but I supported those who did. This is the second straight election I’ve voted off the beaten path, so I can’t really say how I would have reacted otherwise; perhaps I’m tempering my desire to celebrate until I see change in action and not merely discussed in a stump speech.
As a Christian, however, this General Election also comes with a bit of sadness: as I see the returns on ballot initiatives from Arizona, California, and Florida, each affirming that the civil right to marry is limited to opposite-sex couples, I’m tight-lipped and frustrated. I observe Arkansas Initiative 1 and cannot possibly comprehend how the citizens of that fine state could trample upon the general welfare of children. Thus, I wonder not if the church is out of touch with the will of the people (or God), but whether or not I’m out of touch with the church.
As an institution that has shaped my path for the last decade, the fact that so many of those that share my same general beliefs would have the audacity to vote for such measures is saddening, at the least. It makes me realize even more that the past ways of practicing my faith — the ways in which I would have supported such measures — need to be abandoned. But…with what do I replace them?
I don’t think I’m the only person in America wondering these things at the moment. A generation of young people, choosing to pursue faith in many forms, sees a disconnect between the morality of equality, tolerance, and unconditional love; and the veiled shackles of oppression that people of the same faith choose to vote into law under the guise of morality. And, unfortunately, I don’t think any President-elect, regardless of skin color or religion or political affiliation, can bridge that gap. It’s only going to be resolved in the coffee shops, pews, synagogues, mosques, and dinner tables of America — but we have to be willing to listen first, think and pray next, and finally act.
On this morning, I’m truly proud to be an American. I’m proud of our young people, showing up in droves and forcing me to wait in line for 45 minutes to vote. I’m incredibly happy to see the seeds of hope sown in millions of hearts. But don’t be offended if I don’t jump for joy: in the midst of our celebration, the rights of millions of Americans were compromised, and there’s much work and reflection to be done in order to understand how that happened.