I don’t fly often, and when I do it’s via the cheapest way possible. Today I was traveling for work, and one of my colleagues had access to the Sky Club. *Disclaimer* my colleague is not included in the description of Sky Club members that follows. For those of you not in the know, Sky Club is for rich people who don’t want to sit in airport hell with the rest of us while waiting for their flight. While we try to locate a comfortable spot in the crowded terminal, one that doesn’t smell or isn’t too close to a man yelling on his cellphone or a screaming child, Sky Club members get to pass through the doors into magical, temperature controlled, lavender-scented paradise where there are plenty of outlets, free WiFi and comfy chairs. While most of us walk in circles trying to find “affordable” food until we finally give up and spend $9 on a PBJ, they have unlimited access to tasty and even marginally nutritious snacks, including but not limited to: hummus and veggies, Nutella and fruit, mixed nuts, pretzels, cheese, coffee, tea, soda, and booze. We shuffle in and out of crowded restrooms and try not to notice when the person in the stall next to us chooses to have a conversation on their phone. You still might encounter the awkward stall conversation in the Sky Club restroom, but the restroom is much cleaner, smells nicer, and has fancier soap. Sounds pretty great, yes? It is, I suppose. But the entire time I was up there I felt pretty out of place. I couldn’t help but gawk at all the “free” accommodations that were offered and think about how excessive the entire thing was. What was more troubling was how most of the people in Sky Club seemed to act like they were entitled to this special treatment. Sure they pay extra for it, but I think for most of them it’s an amount they wouldn’t really miss from their bank account. And really, what is the point? Convenience? Prestige? The longer I sat there the more I thought that Sky Club represented what’s wrong with American society. A small percentage of people have more wealth and resources but insist on keeping themselves separate from others instead of helping others. They’ve earned this money, right? They shouldn’t have to share it or sit with the rest of us in a loud, smelly airport terminal. Well, I disagree. In protest I snagged some extra packets of Nutella and tea to save for later. If I had brought a bigger bag, I would have cleaned them out and dispersed Nutella, apples, mixed nuts, cheese and cookies throughout the Atlanta airport to anyone who looked hungry like a regular Sky Club Robin Hood.
Conservative friends, or anyone who is considering voting for Mitt Romney, please read this. Those of you who know me well know that I am not generally a judgmental or hateful person. I enjoy making people happy and helping others in need. Keep your knowledge of my personality in mind while you read this. I’m writing out of significant concern that has been resting on my heart and mind the past few weeks. I don’t want to knock anybody’s political opinions or belittle anyone’s religious views. My purpose is simply to express how I feel about our presidential candidates in a moral and ethical context.
“Young people, you are the people who belong to the twenty-first century. You should think how to bring this century into a more peaceful century, a more compassionate century.” ~ Dalai Lama
This statement above sums up conceptually why I am voting for Barack Obama to continue his role as President of the United States. Here is my reasoning:
Take a moment, if you will, to think of someone you admire who has given up their ENTIRE life, SELFLESSLY to promoting what he or she believes is morally right. I say ENTIRE and SELFLESSLY in all caps because I don’t mean a politician, your first grade teacher, or your parish priest. These people have chosen a way of life specifically to influence a group of people, and they are usually paid for their work. My two examples would be Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They did not choose to be religious and spiritual leaders. They simply committed themselves to live a devout and selfless life, living the core values that they believe are vital with their actions, thoughts, and words. They did not choose to be influential. They are because we have experience their wisdom and chosen to follow them.
Public service, which includes the office of President, should be a very similar way of life. Our candidates are FAR from the status Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, but we should consider them within the same selfless and moral context. Which one will serve people more consistently without considering their own personal gain? Which one will view the people of the United States as individuals who all have the same rights and needs?
Friends, division of our country morally will continue to set us up for failure. If we try to separate the gay from the straight, the rich from the poor, the old from the young, the Christian from the atheist, the legal citizen from the illegal immigrant, the black from the white, no one will win.
Mitt Romney’s policies are divisive and lack compassion and tolerance. The decisions he would make for the United States and our country’s interaction with the rest of the world would attempt to move us toward a more homogenous society that resists the very nature of humanity, which is diversity.
I am no economic expert, so my examples are based on moral issues. I find these issues the most troubling because people voting for Mitt Romney based on what they feel matches their religious and ethical views should reconsider what values his policies really enforce.
Mitt Romney’s lifestyle does not suggest an attitude of selflessness. He has led a privileged life, which is not a fault, but he lives far outside the boundaries of what is necessary. What is the moral purpose of having multiple cars and houses? There is no purpose other than material wealth.
Consider Mitt Romney’s views on gay marriage and the rights of gay parents:
What is his motive in this statement? Is it the well-being of the child? Many children have grown up with grandparents, an aunt and uncle, a single parent, or in foster homes and turned out just fine. I think Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama would argue that what is important is not the presence of one man and one woman in a child’s life, but the presence of love and compassion in that child’s life.
Consider this paired with Romney’s views on government funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does much more for our country than provide abortions. It provides educational materials to help teach people about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It provides free and reduced-cost contraception to help people avoid babies they are not ready for. Many women and men cannot afford doctor appointments, or prescriptions to treat STDs or to acquire birth control. Cheaper methods of birth control are more accessible to these populations but not as effective. Mitt Romney’s policy focuses on stopping abortions from occurring, but it does not focus on how to support those who might turn to an abortion when they feel there isn’t another option, or give them resources they need to prevent pregnancy in the first place. Shouldn’t his policy be concerned with the health and well-being of all citizens, rather than the moral views of some?
Mitt Romney focuses on the market and competition to provide people with health care options. Health is not a competition; it is a necessity for life. Our country should not be survival of the fittest, it should be a country where those with more help those with less so that everyone has what they need to live with a high quality of life. Not a life of excess, a life of necessities: affordable healthcare and medication, control over his or her body, access to resources that will help them when times are hard, the ability to legally bind themselves to someone they love and raise children with that person.
Obama’s policies on marriage, abortion, and health care offer SUPPORT and PROTECTION for those who need it, regardless of what his personal beliefs might be. He offers men and women the choice to marry whomever they choose, because love is stronger than hate. He offers women the resources they need to stay healthy and control their bodies, because the views of many should not control the needs of all. He offers everyone the chance of affordable health care to ensure quality of life. These are the actions of a selfless, compassionate leader. These are the beliefs of a man who values the well-being, freedom, and individuality of everyone in America.
What would your moral role model say about Mitt Romney’s policies? Would they agree that satisfying the religious and moral beliefs of some Americans is more important than allowing everyone the right to choose what is right for them in their life path with their family? Would they turn away those who make it to this country seeking help and a better life? Would they value profit and competition over health and quality of life?
The answers of my role models are crystal clear. I will vote for Barack Obama because I choose compassion, I choose to aid my neighbor, I choose to honor the experience of love no matter who experiences it with whom, I choose the soul over the material, and I choose unity and peace over division and war.
As the election draws near I have felt an increasing anxiety that our country might be taken over by a certain Republican pretending to care about the average American. This anxiety, which spikes excessively during political debates, has increased my online sassiness significantly. Normally I’m not that person who engages in comment wars online, calling out naysayers who have no clue what they’re really naysaying about. I let them be and am content to tell the online world about the delicious recipe I just made or the hilarious typo I fixed at work that day
But during election season (or when a particularly annoying and incompetent Kansas governor makes a terrible decision) my commenting online takes a turn toward the dangerous arena of judgment, biting sarcasm, and putdowns. Now, you might be thinking, “Big deal, Elizabeth. That’s what politics is all about.” And you might be right on some level. But tell me this friends: just when did we start leaving the civility out of civics?
Back in the day they used to settle political debates with a duel. But how far have we come really, when our words are just as violent?
One of the fantastic things about America, despite its undeniable flaws, is that for the most part we have held on tightly to our 1st Amendment rights. Some might try to argue with me here, saying various forces have decreased those rights, but the existence of the terrible, hateful, Fred Phelps, and the truly disappointing and embarrassing latest Bob Dylan album prove them wrong. We can pretty much say what we want in whatever medium we choose about politicians, and I think on some level it is not only a right, but also a requirement for us to do so. If we don’t stay informed and engaged in how our country is managed, then we fail as citizens. If we want to further a cause, say reducing homelessness, curing cancer, increasing educational funding, just about anything we care about, then we have to stand up and speak out. It is perfectly natural for people to voice their opinions on these topics passionately, but at some point it became normal and maybe even expected that they become aggressive, accusatory, and defensive as well.
I am guilty of this offense. A friend of mine whom I have a great deal of respect for called me out online the other day. I made a hasty, angry, and illogical Facebook post after the VP debate. Basically, I said Joe Biden puts Paul Ryan to shame, even when it comes to being Catholic. What my friend pointed out was that, just who do I think I am to judge these two men on their religious beliefs? My immediate response was to defend my post, pointing out all the ways that Ryan fails to uphold the tenants of the Catholic faith that he claims to hold dear. But then I stopped, and I was embarrassed. My friend was 100% right.
The very thing I was frustrated about, a candidate not being open-minded when it came to the beliefs of others, was something I was guilty of myself. If I want a president who is:
- compassionate and works to help not just U.S. citizens, but citizens of the world,
- who doesn’t put his own beliefs above the beliefs of others,
- who acts selflessly, with integrity,
- and most importantly who respects the rights of others, no matter what their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation is,
…then don’t I need to do that myself?
I thought about what His Holiness (HH for short) might think of our election process, and if he had a Facebook account what his posts might look like. I think, perhaps, he would post about how we should wish the candidates peace and wisdom during this stressful time. How we should consider their families and the burden campaigning must put on all of them, especially when the entire country says disparaging things about their husbands/fathers/sons on a daily basis. And most importantly, how even when we speak out against injustice or in support of what we believe, that we need to do so respectfully, and peacefully.
HH says that our adversaries offer us an opportunity to practice patience and compassion. I have no doubt that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will do an outstanding job of testing by my patience and my compassion, so it won’t be easy, but I’m going to do my best to stay civil for the rest of this election season. Wish me luck.