I didn’t fully understand the power of marriage until I married Ryan. I was there, in a rented tuxedo with him, declaring a lifelong commitment to this one amazing man in front of the people I have come to consider my family over the last several years. After spending most of my life thinking of myself as an outsider, it’s the most vivid memory I have of ever belonging somewhere. Ryan and I had come together as a stable unit, something solid and long-lasting in our community. We were there, not just to celebrate our union, but to celebrate the fellowship we had cultivated with so many people, and to celebrate our small contribution towards making it stronger.
Since then, I’ve become increasingly grateful for my community of friends and I’ve come to recognize the value of making and maintaining bonds with the people around me. I believe that being in a relationship — with friends, lovers, neighbors and coworkers — is one of the best ways to get your head out of your own ass. It forces you to see, even for a brief moment, that you are not the center of the universe. You may be the star of your own story, but there are countless stories being told all around you, each with their own stars. And they all have narratives that intersect with one another, that bind and tie each story to a different one. If you pull back, away from your own story, to see the tapestry that’s being woven of the world around you, it’s amazing and humbling. True, it’s your thread, and you want to make it as good as possible, but you’re just one thread of countless others.
Maybe this is a sign of me getting older, but I think the greatest values you can cultivate as an individual are the ones that help you get along with other people. Yes, it’s important to have principles and stick to them. Yes, it’s important to stand up for what you believe is right. But ultimately, you have to convince other people about the worth of your principles. You can’t do that if you don’t know how to communicate your beliefs in a way that affect other people. Being right doesn’t count for much if you’re a dick about it.
But we live in a society where the exact opposite seems true. We’re encouraged to be dismissive to opposing points of view, and to shut out anyone who doesn’t agree with us. The template for our stories are the only ones that matter, and someone with a different experience, a different set of morals and values, or different beliefs are to be ignored at best, persecuted at worst. We’re the stars of our own stories, and everyone else is either an ally, an enemy or irrelevant. There is no tapestry; there’s only the single thread of our lives running over and over again. We live in a world, it seems, that rewards us for making our lives as small as possible.
I…can’t say how much this disappoints me. I think our society is at its strongest and greatest when we expand our lives to hold as many experiences as we can, when we encourage and reward opposing viewpoints coming together to find commonalities and compromises as much as possible. Whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, we share this world with other people. And these other people have lives that are just as important as ours, full of just as many wonders and miseries, contradictions, mistakes and victories. The people we see around us have ideals that they fall short of, too. If they’re lucky, they have friends who remind them of all they could be, just like I do. If they’re lucky, they have people who take them out of their own stories and show them a number of others.
I believe that our government is meant to make sure that each and every one of us has the best possible shot at making our lives the best it can be. Because if our lives are made better, then we can help make the lives of our friends and neighbors better. And that makes our community better. I think that government should give us the power to do that, to help us when we fall short, to make sure we can achieve our limitless potential if we try. I believe in that. I do.
I can’t tolerate anyone who seeks to use the government’s power to treat me as an ‘other’, to tell me that I cannot participate fully in my community. I believe that’s what Mitt Romney is telling me and countless others like me with his policy. If you’re gay, poor, an immigrant (undocumented or otherwise), a woman, uninsured, not Christian, or anyone other than someone who thinks and behaves like he does, you have no place in this country. Romney only wants the system to help those who can take most advantage of it. He represents the thinking of a distressingly large part of our society — that if your story isn’t just like his, then it should be ignored at best, written out at worst.
I’m not saying that Obama is perfect, or the second coming — he has his problems too. But the bottom line is that Obama still represents the world I want to live in. He is inclusive, encouraging, and continually stresses the power of community and the responsibility we have as individuals to forge a strong one. He doesn’t tell me that I don’t deserve equal say because I don’t believe the things he does. He doesn’t tell my sister that he knows what’s best for her body better than she does. He doesn’t tell my mother — who doesn’t pay taxes because she’s on Social Security — that she believes she’s a victim and he can’t worry about her.
To be honest, I don’t think there will ever be a perfect candidate or a perfect President. Try as we might, we’re only human. We fall short of our ideals. The bottom line, however, is clear. Romney is part of the movement to make our lives — and our communities — smaller and less vibrant. His party wants us to isolate ourselves from each other, and be poorer for it. I can’t agree with that way of thinking. It’s against everything I’ve come to stand for. And it’s against everything I believe government should be.
For those people voting for Romney tomorrow, I hope that I haven’t made you feel unwelcome, or lesser. A disagreement of ideals is not a condemnation of character. But at the same time, how will Romney’s policies help those of us who aren’t like him? How will they strengthen our communities and those around us? How will they help us live together more ably, even when we disagree? I don’t believe they will. If you don’t think that these questions are important for choosing a candidate, that’s fine. But being right doesn’t mean much if you can’t convince those around you that you are. Sometimes, that means meeting them where they are, seeing the world from their point of view, and determining how your idea best suits their needs. It’s something that we have to do, if we expect to be part of a community.
Anyway, that’s who I’m voting for and why. I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re pro-Romney. No matter who you vote for, please be sure you do. We should all do at least that, in order to help make the society we want to see.