I live in a small town. I love my small town. And today, my small town is making a pretty big decision.
A special election will be deciding a rather controversial question. (I’m going to refrain from posing the actual question here and from weighing in on the topic by revealing my actual vote, which was already cast. I hope that you who are local readers will also refrain from doing so in the comments.)
I’ll confess that I’ve never been very good at paying attention to local news, and we only recently started subscribing to the newspaper. Additionally, having been insulated from the world by the post-baby cocoon for the last three months, I had no idea what it meant when I started noticing signs around town last week that said “Vote YES! on July 31st.” Luckily, we got a postcard in the mail explaining what it was we were supposed to be voting “YES!” to so enthusiastically, and as is typical, I’ve begun noticing the discussion all over the place since then: in the paper, on Facebook, and at church. Yes, even at church.
I had friends, Christian friends, people I respect on both sides of the topic, and I could see the positives and negatives of both sides. What was I going to do?
First I decided I just wouldn’t vote. Not like an I-don’t-care-enough-to-go-to-the-election-booth sort of thing, but an actual decision not to vote. If I could go and actually cast a no-vote vote, I would have. Call it a cop-out if you want, but that’s what I was going to do.
But then I thought about it some more, and I realized what my actual conundrum was.
Voting one way on the issue clearly benefits me. No question about it.
Voting the other way on the issue has the potential to harm others. Before anyone gets up in arms, I’m not saying that it would harm others, but it has the potential to. The implications of the decision might be dicey.
And that’s where I’m writing this blog post. What if it were the case that it actually would harm others?
Does that make the decision easier or not?
I don’t often hear election topics discussed in the public arena in these terms, but I think that perhaps more often than not, it might apply. And if it does, when you exercise your “civic duty” (as so many people call it), should you vote for self or for community?
Sometimes those are the same–and many people in my town would say that in this case, those are the same thing, that my splitting apart the issue as I have done doesn’t do justice to all sides–but sometimes they’re not the same. Sometimes what benefits me does harm to my neighbor.
And if we are to love our neighbors as our selves, well, what do you do in this case? Not vote? Vote for community? Or vote for what makes your life easier/better/happier?