Monday, November 05, 2018

Democracy and Voting

An excerpt from George Washington’s farewell speech:
“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate 
peace and harmony with all.  Religion and morality enjoin this 
conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin
 it  It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no 
distant period, a great nation, to give to (hu)mankind the 
magnanimous and too novel example  of a people always 
guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt 
that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan 
would richly repay any temporary advantages which might 
be lost by a steady adherence to it”  
No distant period is a relative term, but hopefully we can still be guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Now morality is a tricky thing isn’t it. Especially looking at it historically.  
It is important to point out that Washington for all his greatness, was a slave owner. Yet unlike many other leaders of his time, in his will he did free his slaves upon the death of his wife and provide for their education.
       As Lincoln said in his second inaugural address about the Northern and Southern states “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes God’s aid against the other.”  
So how do I claim the moral high ground. I don’t.
I claim my moral ground. And I ask you to claim yours as well.
We often here fundamentalist religions claiming morality and God is on their side.
And because we are open to multiple possibilities we are often not definitive saying this is the only way, or this is the one true way.
But that doesnt mean just because I am open to other perspectives and other ways of thinking,
it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a better way, or I don’t believe that what I think is moral.
And because each of us have different opinions, elections in our country are moral statements,
about what we as country believe to be moral.
We as a religion recognize difference and the importance of each of us having our input to come to a higher truth and we have imbedded that in our foundational principles,
“The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
And so I ask you as we come upon election day I ask you to consider the moral values of your choices.  For me, there are many moral choices.
Many of my choices are based on our principles, particularly the principle of justice equity and compassion in human relations.
I believe Maintaining health care for pre-existing conditions, Expanding quality physical and mental health care for all through some type of  single payer or universal health care system.
Now I don’t even care whether you think health care is a right or not. How and to whom we offer Health care is a moral choice about how we spend our resources as a country to care for our fellow human beings.  
I believe in the continuation of a sustainable Social Security system.
This is a moral choice, so that the elderly and disabled will be able to live with dignity and sustenance.
I value the moral choice keeping families together in their many forms.
I believe it is immoral to forcibly separate children from parents unless they are in danger,
I believe it is immoral to put children in cages as a way to coerce their parents.
I think it is immoral to break up families and increase poverty due to non violent marijuana possession.
I think it is particularly immoral when that is done disproportionately on a racial basis.
I believe it is moral to help people lift themselves out of poverty
If we truly want people to reach their potential we should provide education for all people, and we should pay a living wage as a society
so people do not have to worry where their next meal is coming from or if they will have a roof over their head.
What other choice do we have if we truly believe in justice equity and compassion in human relations. Do you know the other day I read the government objects to free college education because then they would have difficulty in getting anyone to volunteer for the armed services. This might also fit with my belief in the goal of world community with peace liberty and justice for all, not just for Americans, but for all. Is the child born in Bangladesh, of less value than a child born in America?
I do believe it is moral in the absence of emergency, just as we do at the Congregation, that we as a country should have a balanced budget that recognizes that those who have the means to, should help those who do not have the means.
And perhaps, cutting back on the military industrial complex spending is a way to reach that goal as well as the goal of a peaceful world community. 
I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of each person and so I think it is moral to respect individuals gender identity and sexual orientation.
I think it is moral to protect women’s health rights.  
I believe we should respect the interdependent web of existence, so I think it is moral to have Sane environmental protections to save the planet for our descendants compared to a deregulation scorched earth policy.  

I ask you to think about what are your hopes for this country? How do your values help you discern that. What are we called to do to bring about as Washington said the fruits of exalted justice and benevolence. Now I don’t know. 200 years from now, someone will look back and this may all seem crazy to them. In the same way our founders could not have even fathomed the internet, so too can we not fathom what the future holds, but that does not excuse us from doing the best we can with the knowledge we have, in our free religious community,
still searching for enlightenment, looking upon each others faces with compassion, acting towards our fellow human beings with empathy, and righting the wrongs of injustice.
That is what my morality calls on me to do.

Part II
I have enjoyed the tv show Madam Secretary over the years because it shows the nuanced challenges of diplomacy and the  difficult decisions government has to make. Here in this scene, is the Secretary of State talking to her daughter after her daughter tells her she is not going to vote

First what I loved most about this scene was the little kids playing on the floor while their parents voted. I remember doing this when my parents went to vote. Voting was not considered an option in my family.
My grandparents who were immigrants to this country considered it a requirement of citizenship, and as well worked as volunteers on election day.
Now I know many young people who vote and are engaged in political life.
And I know many young and old people who are not engaged in the political process. And I get it. I came of age during the Nixon White House and Nixon’s forced resignation and pardon. And I have lived long enough to understand the inefficiency and corruption that arises in government. 

Yet I have also been around long enough and studied long enough to see the power of government used for good. To end slavery, to stop fascism.
To build an interstate highway,
to fund research for life saving medicine,
and for the creation of the internet,  
to provide a system to help those who are struggling, to legalize marriage equality, public education, and much more, and it requires constant vigilance and attention as we see the good being constantly chipped away at. 

As the video stated Democracy is not perfect, or efficient, but it is what we have. And maybe we should not hope for efficiency in Government.   I was moved by what Parker Palmer said in his book The Heart of Democracy”
“Just as a virgin prairie is less efficient than agribusiness land, democracy is less efficient than a dictatorship. We often move too slowly on matters of moral or practical urgency. And yet this loss of efficiency is more than offset by the way human diversity, freely expressed, can strengthen the body politic—offering resilience in the face of threat, adaptability to change, creativity and productivity in everything from commerce to science to culture”
Your participation, your voice  is important.
You may not think your vote counts.  
But I can tell you it does.  
I lived in Florida during the Gore/Bush Presidential election in 2000.
Although there are still today disputes about voter suppression and the actual final count, but the final tally for official purposes was 537 votes. Out of 5.8 million votes the difference was 537 votes.
Imagine if more people had voted how the world would be different today. So don’t tell me your vote doesn’t count. It is a privilege to say your vote doesn’t count.
Elections have real consequences for many people, even if not for you and we are all in this together. And although at times it may seem that Democracy is slowing dieing,
I am reminded of what Rev. William Barber said "We are being asked to be the moral defibrillator for the heart of democracy." 
Democracy needs us to be engaged.
To pump its heart so it will breather longer and stronger, to breathe new life into it.
Even if it sometimes needs us to pound it in the chest and shock it back to life.
If we are not willing to take responsibility for it, we leave ourselves vulnerable and we cannot just assume the patient is going to live and its death will end our freedom. So vote, go to school borad meetings, city council meetings, zoning board meetings, whatever you are passionate about, be engaged.

The other thing that the tv clip reminded me of, the responsibility to vote, because so many people died for the right to vote. Now the tv show was talking about our armed services fighting for our freedom, but I am also reminded of our siblings, who blood was spilled in this country including Unitarian blood in the fight for voting rights.

I was reminded about this from a tweet by Georgia representative John Lewis who marched in Selma for voting rights in 1965. He wrote
“I have been beaten, my skull fractured, and arrested more than forty times so that each and every person has the right to register and vote. Friends of mine gave their lives. Do your part. Get out there and vote”
And I thought about those who died, those known and unknown 

1955  Rev. George Lee,  used his pulpit and his printing press to urge people to vote.
White officials offered Lee protection on the condition he end his voter registration efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered.

 Known 1964, James Earl ChaneyAndrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner, all murdered after coming to Philadelphia Mississippi to register people to vote

 Known February 1965 · Marion, Alabama
Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten and shot by state troopers as he tried to protect mother from a state trooper attack at a voting rights march. His death led to the Selma-Montgomery march

Known March  1965 · Selma, Alabama
Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Boston, and Viola Liuzzo a Unitarian layperson from Michigan were killed in Alabama after participating in the Selma March for Voting Rights.  Soon after Lyndon Johnson was able to pass the Voting Rights Act, even mentioning Reeb in his address to Congress.  
All of these people and so many many more, call to us from the grave and call us to be engaged in public life.

So let our life have meaning,
Let us rise above our fears,
let us continue to build resilience by acting courageously, yes by acting we build resilience,
let us find our voice,
let us remain humble in that we know there is much we do  not know, and mostly
let us have hope.
Not a pie in the sky hope,
not a well wishing optimism hope, but rather a hope As Victoria Safford says where “you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle but joy” So Please vote and no matter what happens, stay engaged.
Be true to your heart, and your hope and your struggle
Let us continue the struggle together as we build the world we dream about because your lives count and the lives that will come after us count as well, They are counting on us.  May it be so.