Can it be a manifesto if I end my title with a question mark? Maybe instead it’s just a statement of identity.
Back in 2008 my husband and I, by virtue of living near my parents, publicly became Democrats. See, there was this yard sign in our yard and it was unmistakable. Voting for Democrats wasn’t a new thing for us. Back in 2006 we had voted for a whole slew of them for the very first time, but we were out-of-state then so who would know? See, my parents and his parents were both Republicans. I grew up Republican and up until 2006 I couldn’t imagine how a person of faith could ever vote for anyone else.
…but then there was this shift as I had to admit that there were more important things out there than just a small list of “moral” issues that I was dubious to admit weren’t as “moral” as I once thought. Hello shades of grey! There were, however, certain moral issues that remained. Moral issues that I was absolutely certain of – the right to organize, the right to food, clothing, a roof over one’s head, the right to a free education (primary, secondary, and college), the right to affordable health care, the right to a secure retirement, and most especially the responsibility of those who have extracted the most from our ecology and economy to pay the full costs associated with that income. What about those issues? If I was serious about those issues then I could no longer continue on as a Republican.
Then in 2008 we were back in Wisconsin, fifteen minutes from my parents, and awkwardly leaving what once was behind. After the election my Mom and I were discussing things a bit and I let slip that voting for the Democrat seemed to fit the best for us. I remember the conversation to this day, especially when she asked me if I’d ever vote for a Republican again. I punted and tried my best to side-step the question because I could read the emotion in her voice. I knew that she had never voted for anyone other than a Republican and that my Dad felt that Ronald Reagan did great things for our country. I didn’t think that she would understand and it didn’t matter really whether or not we agreed or voted the same on issues. I wouldn’t convince her, she wouldn’t convince me and it would only divide us. There isn’t much point in that and it wasn’t like we’d stop loving each other. There are more important things to focus on and besides, good and godly Christians disagree.
And so we avoided politics like the plague. My husband and I did our best to remain silent. If subjects like health insurance reform came up we might become involved with the conversation a bit, point out a few bits of facts as we understood it here and there, but mostly we’d leave the room if at all possible. We do the same thing with my in-laws…except with them we avoid just about everything which explains why our visits with them are awkward.
Which brings us to today. This, these things happening in our state, this right here? This is why I’m no longer a Republican. It’s why I would never vote for a Republican again for the rest of my life and knew it back in 2006, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Couldn’t abide. Couldn’t support it. Couldn’t take it any longer. Why so certain? Because I’ve lived this. Walked this. Stood in the freezing cold while my toes and fingers were numb. Took my kids out in the freezing rain and snow to walk lap after lap around the Capital. Did it all while trying not to cough up a lung to the bone tired, on the edge of my seat, can’t believe this is happening here where I live in the only state that’s ever felt like home. Because the way we treat people, the least of our people, the most vulnerable of our people, and the way we spend our money says a lot about our values. Budgets and laws really are moral documents, but not for the reasons I ever understood before.
See…we’re only ever a “Christian” nation to the extent that the ways we’ve acted have been Christ-like. Good and godly Christians disagree, but when very powerful people start arguing about how God is on their side and freedom is used as a code for financial matters instead of the abstract concept we’re supposed to hold dear you really have to wonder just how “Christian” we really are. I won’t claim that God is on my side, but I will say that I am acting this way because the way I read the Bible requires that I try to emulate Jesus’ actions to the best of my ability and how I see fit. I will not claim a rubber stamp from the supernatural. My faith will inform my actions which will certainly leave you free to allow your faith (or lack thereof) to do the same.
So, thank you, Wisconsin Republicans for helping me to solidify my identity in my mind. You’ve given our politically divergent family a great deal more common ground than I ever thought possible…even with my in-laws which says a lot. You’ve reminded me that I can do this. I have the time and I will take my kids with me. I can knock on doors, make phone calls, and be brave because it really is that important. Not only will I continue on voting as I have for these last five years, but I will get out and do something. I am asleep no longer. I am watching what’s going on and I will remember. I will remember.