Monday, October 22, 2012

Symbolatry

So despite numerous and nearly ongoing protestations about voting for Obama, I finally did vote today. And,  in spite of my disappointments with his first term and skepticism about his second, I really hope he wins. The thing is, the issues that really interest me: enthusiastic involvement in endless and unwinnable wars, terrifying power to kill anyone - even American citizens - without any kind of due process, the no longer gradual spiral into irreversible climate change, Romney and Obama are, for all intents and purposes, identical on the subject. In fact, in the category of war, Obama is hyped as having an advantage. He is more qualified than Romney specifically because of all the reasons that I am unhappy/terrified with/of the government.

Despite my misgivings, I voted for Obama because he is a symbol. Despite the fact that he's basically doubld down on a lot of Bush's policies, he's a symbol of progress, hope and change. He's living proof that a black man, believed to be a Muslim by a significant portion of the voting public can be elected President. He's a symbol of social progress, a notable benchmark in the (often shameful) history of the United States.

I voted for Barack Obama because I am pro-choice, for same-sex marriage, anti-racism, anti-sexism. I voted for him because I believe in hope and change, even if he doesn't. I know how paranoia sounds, and I am afraid that I might sound a little paranoid. I don't mean to, but I do mean to sound disillusioned and dismayed that the world is decaying right in front of my face.

The generation before mine grew up with the threat - the reality, even - of imminent nuclear war. And although that is still a possibility, it isn't a huge concern for most of us. What is a concern is a rapidly warming planet and shifting social order and erosion of civil liberties. I don't have children, so I have the luxury of taking the long view, of imagining that this too, like so many Cuban Missile Crises, will pass. Fifty years from now, perhaps the climate will have stabilized and world economies will balance out. Maybe polar bears and the island nation of Kiribati will still exist. Maybe our absurd and unblinking allegiance to Israel won't shove us into another war with far more dangerous implications and outcomes.

If the world I hope for is around in fifty years, then voting for Obama will be historically significant. It will indicate the direction I want our country to move. It will be another step in the slow trudge of social progress.

And all things being equal, I have to give credit to Republicans that they are willing to overlook the fact that Romney is a Mormon. There are three possibilities: 1) religion no longer matters, 2) they don't know that he's Mormon or 3) they hate Muslims so much that they would prefer a Mormon.

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