How could anyone not vote? Especially in a democracy? Just take a look at Belarus these days. Or, some of the struggling neo-democratic countries teetering on tyrannical rule. Let me give you some examples I have experienced about freedom and voting these past 60 years.
In the 1950’s when I was in religious formation, communism governed most of Europe and many of my Sisters still had families in those countries, especially Slovakia. I witnessed faith filled immigrants coming to our shrine, most of them elderly people, appealing to the patroness of Slovakia (the Blessed Mother of God.) They climbed up many concrete steps on their knees to pray before her statue which came from Slovakia and was meant to comfort her people here in America.
I am haunted by the expressions on their faces: devoted, humble, tears of inexpressible anguish. They were pleading for democratic governance in their homeland, freedom for their families still bound by the chains of communism.
Then came 1960 and John F. Kennedy. I was so excited to cast my first vote for a presidential candidate. I had just turned 21, the legal age for voting, so I was ready. I had studied the platforms of both Nixon and Kennedy trying to be as open as possible in casting this cherished first vote. Kennedy seemed a hope in this time of growing expansion of communist rule in Europe. I felt sure of his commitment to democratic ideals.
Then I came across something unexpected. I had been assigned to teach catechism in a very old semi-rural parish and we had classes in the church’s small, cold, dank basement while a new church was being designed. I had fourth through sixth graders. The Sunday before the national elections a young boy presented me with a church bulletin from the nearby, fairly affluent Protestant church. The boy said, “My mother asked what you thought of this.” He pointed to a note written by the pastor of the Protestant church. It read, “Do not vote for Kennedy or the pope will govern America.”
I so wish I would have saved this church bulletin. When I referred to it in my college classes, forty years later, no one would believe it. They would offer that no election in America would be that crass, that fearful, that biased. They were wrong.
We must remember that there is one perspective not to be lost in our responsibilities as American voters: This is a sacred call. Vote. Somewhere recently I read that Stacey Abrams, former candidate for Governor of Georgia, said the same thing. Yes, it is sacred. Yes, it calls forth a strong spirituality, a commitment to the common good. And, yes, it is the charitable, loving thing to do for the common good. Please guide others to vote. Help as many as you can in this democratic right.
Please join me in praying that America votes safely and justly during this election. We have a democracy already in place. We do not need to violently assert it.
I suggest the following:
Vote like you pray with no invectives, no physical violence, no hate for the opposition.
Your vote should be as much for your neighbor as it is for you and your family.
It should represent a commitment to the global community and the earth as it does to our country. Your vote carries weight if you are informed.