20 Days to Election Day

I’m attempting to post a brief meditation on the daily quote from my Election Day advent calendar. Today brings us:

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious
and uncertain until it is secured for all of us
and incorporated into our common life.
Jane Addams

I just learned that Jane Addams was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Addams founded Hull House, a settlement home in Chicago:

The settlement movement was a reformist social movement, beginning in the 1880s and peaking around the 1920s in England and the US, with a goal of getting the rich and poor in society to live more closely together in an interdependent community. Its main object was the establishment of “settlement houses” in poor urban areas, in which volunteer middle-class “settlement workers” would live, hoping to share knowledge and culture with, and alleviate the poverty of their low-income neighbors. In the US, by 1913 there were 413 settlements in 32 states. (Wikipedia)

The model is rather outdated, and the notion of the wealthy essentially civilizing poor immigrants definitely misguided, but the impulse and value of providing services and support for the benefit of the entire community is evergreen. At least, I hope it is.

Whether or not we live next door to each other, we are an interdependent community. Schools matter to me, though I have no children. Access to social services like food stamps that I’ve never needed to rely upon matters to me, because I know people who have had to rely upon them.

As far as my day to day life goes, I’d probably come out OK no matter who is elected president, because I’m very fortunate to have arrived at a fairly comfortable station in life, with access to a strong family safety net. But I care deeply about re-electing President Obama, and about getting the right people into office at the state and local level.

I know some men who will never have to worry about issues like contraceptive coverage or access to abortion. Their children are grown, their jobs are secure, they pay their taxes and don’t interact with government in many active, meaningful ways beyond that. (Of course, they drive on roads, flush toilets, use the internet, etc., and I know they’ll be depositing those social security checks and using Medicare when the time comes, but …)

I know one man who is honestly undecided about how to cast his presidential vote. Most of the time, I cannot imagine how anyone could be undecided, but for this man, it makes sense. Which person is in office really won’t have much of a personal, meaningful impact on him. His clients will face regulations from either administration, so his workflow will continue. He might pay a little more or a little less in taxes, but he can easily handle the bill. His rights are secure, and his needs are easily met.

Is he the kind of person who can look into the community and vote on behalf of the people whose lives will be radically affected by presidential policies?

The immigrant children desperate for the chance to become citizens so they can live in the light instead of the shadows?

The young mothers living in poverty who don’t want to have to choose between gas for the car and a pap smear and birth control pills?

What an incredible gift and horrible power to be able to make choices that could affect someone else’s life like that? That’s what some of these undecided voters hold in their hands. I hope they all have enough Jane Addams in them to see the path they should take.

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