She or he who votes influences every policy made during an administration. Never believe that you do not have a role as a private citizen. Each elected official and their political appointees are the direct result of your vote and they are most definitely influenced by the will of the people. This is all the more reason that it is essential to be well informed about how the government actually works. We should all know the powers each branch of government possesses, how laws and policies are made and then implemented, and the impact of bad policy originating from inadequate consideration of the consequences of actions.
As a practicing Catholic who finds peace at a Zen center, I vote. I always vote my conscience. I do not let absolutes rule how I vote nor do others decide for me.
Abortion – I believe we should strive to save all beings. Abortion isn’t the only way we harm beings or stopping abortion isn’t the only way to save them.
War – War harms beings. In generally I’m opposed to almost all war but would not deny people have a right to defend their countries and a responsibility to try and prevent genocide. It should be the last choice and not the first.
Right to life, liberty, and happiness – Does liberty matter if we are not safe, risk death in school or a movie theater, and, as a result, live life in fear and unhappiness? Fear can be derived from unaddressed terrorism, violence, crime, poverty, or even lack of access to health care, employment, or education.
Equality – Inequality harms beings. None of us are more or less deserving than another. Each of us is equally responsible for standing up for the oppressed and, to the extent possible, leveling the playing field.
Freedom – God endowed us with freedom of conscience and faith. We should endeavor to show equal value to all who choose to exercise that freedom. Sometimes it will make us less efficient and other times it may make us question the values of certain beliefs, but least it be my belief or your belief that is some day not valued let us value all beliefs and no beliefs. Let us also not work to impose those beliefs on others. They should come to them freely and in their own time or not at all.
People must decide for themselves how to weigh factors that are important to them. However, we should recognize that the factors are all connected. If the only issue that drives my voting choice is abortion and I don’t care about poverty, health care, education, and safety then am I pro-life? Likewise, if I’m a pacifist or strongly opposed to war and yet turn a blind eye to genocide or terrorism then what does it say about the value I place on life or peace?
What too many people fail to realize is that making policy isn’t like running a business. There is no profit to be made in government. Profit is easy to measure, whereas the impacts of policing or preschool programs is not. Whatever one does will result in some people being better off and others being worse off. The challenge is in finding the balance and learning how to hear those with little influence at the same volume as those with power and money. It takes humility to listen, determination to follow the evidence, patience to wait for and recognize the moment when public sentiment will make a policy feasible, and a skin thick enough to take the hostility from people who are willing to scream all manner of epithet and so frequently unwilling to serve or even learn about the government of this great country.
Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17