When you step into that polling booth on Tuesday, who are you voting for?
I don’t mean which candidate you’re voting for, though yes, I do. But here I mean on behalf of whom will you vote? Who will be affected by this election but has no voice because they don’t get to vote? Whose legacy will you move forward or whose might be crushed and sent reeling backwards into the darker ages of human evolution?
Every country in the world will be affected by this election and they’re scared to death. But they don’t get to vote. I’m not only voting on behalf of Iceland and Finland and Brazil and Colombia and Australia and Thailand and Ghana and South Africa and Turkey and Iran and Japan and China and countless more nations, but I’m voting on behalf of Nanna and Soili and Estevao and Sandra and Margie and Tik and Kofi and Ade and Ezo and Nastaran and Noriko and Cao Li in mind, just a handful of the scores of friends I have around the world who are terrified that Americans might make the wrong choice. And rightfully so.
Then there are the heroic ancestors who lived, struggled and died to bring us the freedoms we enjoy today. I’m thinking of Harriet Tubman and John Brown and Frederick Douglass and W.E. Du Bois and Sitting Bull and Mother Jones and Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez and the like, those who moved the needle of the moral compass one inch closer to justice. Will all their work be undone by careless voters? And what of Emmet Till and Medgar Evans and the four girls killed in the Birmingham church and Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the long, long list of folks murdered because “black lives didn’t matter.”? Aren’t they counting on us to remember them when we cast the ballot?
And what of the trees and the rivers and the polar ice caps? They don’t necessarily care that we are destroying the world that sustains us—perhaps they’ll grow back heartier and healthier when we’re gone. But on behalf of the future generations just born and about to be born, shouldn’t we feel some sense of responsibility when we consider whether a candidate believes climate change is a real issue or not?
And then there’s the little things like Democracy. The Constitution. The Supreme Court. The beautiful ideals of America alongside the failed promises and all our hopes to make the ideals and the realities one piece. The possibility of catching up to the more civilized nations that have universal health care, sensible gun laws, free higher and lower education, economies with healthy middle classes instead of the greedy 1% billionaires. Will we think about this when we hold that black marker in our hand?
And finally, the children. Not just the children in abstract, though it’s true that I don’t want little boys growing up thinking it’s okay to treat girls as nothing more than their playthings and little girls growing up thinking they need to worry about how attractive their body is as the centerpiece of their identity. I’m thinking of actual kids, like my granddaughter Zadie wondering if she can be president and my (mixed race) grandson Malik wondering whether it will be a crime for him to drive a car fifteen years from now. I’m thinking of all the kids I teach, whose heart is full of hope and caring. Will our choice feed that or shut it down? For make no mistake about it. The values lived by those at the top trickle down to everyone below. Will their dreams be watered to spring into life or will they be drowned in acid rain?
Please, my friends. Think about who you will bring in the polling booth with you and vote with the full measure of your caring, intelligence and heart. (And don’t be fooled into thinking that your conscience will be clean by voting for your ideal candidate who cannot win at this time and will open the door for the worst to happen. The stakes are so high and so many people and things are counting on us to vote wisely and realistically.) Bring in photos of your children and grandchildren, the women of every age who you know, love and sincerely respect, the rainforest, the artists, writers, activists, courageous people of your choice who stood up to injustice and hatred, your friends in other countries, you and the happiest future you have imagined sometime in your life. Vote on behalf of all those who will have no vote.
That’s who you’re voting for when you decide who you’re voting for.