(a response to mystic's myspace blog. she organizes with a group called "respect my vote" which looks to mobilize people to vote, but not under a party. encourages folks to educate themselves on every proposal, the issues at hand. www.myspace.com/thatgirlmystic - check her music while you're there.)
as a teacher, i am told that i cannot profess my political views to my students, which at first was difficult for me, but i realize the incredible influence that i do have on my 9th graders. we can have union-sponsored posters in the office, but cannot wear buttons, shirts, or talk to our students about our vote. i do not wish to persuade them (or to disagree with their parents' views), rather to get them to critically think about themselves as humans in a global context. even though they cannot yet vote, when they are able to, i want them to dive into the issues and consider their vote carefully, not approach it uninformed (checking democrat all the way down, taking a guess on the proposals -- so many people do this in the booth). my silence on my personal convictions actually opened up my classroom for a wonderful debate, in which they asked each other very real questions about WHY their family members were backing obama ("let's ask deeper questions than the color of his skin -- does that automatically mean he's going to 'save' us? what does he actually believe?", asked A., the earnest urgency of his question silencing the room) and talked about their disbelief in democracy -- or our country as a democracy. we discussed the power of a vote, despite stolen elections of past, especially in the South Bronx, where it seems to so many like there is no way out and it's not worth trying. it's hard to change things alone, and it takes a long time, but building a sustainable community, working for it daily and seeing progress brings hope. i talked about the importance of voting in local elections, too. how much more directly those decisions matter.
i asked them to think about what they know about me, who they knew me to be, and then asked them to think about who i was voting for. 75% said obama. but i agree with you - i don't believe that his election will mean reparations, an immediate return of civil liberties, immediate withdrawal from Iraq. it's important to hold him accountable if he wins on tuesday. but he has my support, and i do see an opportunity for change in his election. at the same time, it upsets me to hear folks supporting him like a fad, like the hot new album dropping, without question.
i very much respect your decision to encourage voting in this way, and thanks also for your thoughts on your personal vote. i agree, the real work comes in our daily lives, and how we live out who we say we are, but this too is an important time... it was you who said "we all scream for silence when the hopelessness gets too loud." in the bronx, the hopelessness is deafening. the past eight years have been a collapsed lung for this country, but i believe in better days.