I turned in my ballot for the 2020 U.S. election last week.
I would have been willing to wait in line for 12 hours to do so, just like so many in other states have been forced to do because of voter suppression efforts.
There is a lot riding on this election, and I see it as a right and a responsibility to add my voice to that of so many.
I was energized to vote and gladly did what it took to voice my opinion.
Even so, I find the candidates on the ballot to be a major indictment of our current political system.
One question I keep returning to is, “Out of a population of 331 million people, how are these the best candidates our political parties have been willing to put forward?”
The second question is, “Why are we willing to put up with that?”
Our political parties have failed us as a nation.
- We have children in cages, ripped away from their families as political pawns to suffer egregious trauma from which they will never fully recover in order to gain political points for certain people.
- We have a stock market bubble adding to the wealth of the uber-wealthy while lines continue to grow at food banks.
- We have a health care system tied to employment while a global pandemic rages, pushing people out of work.
- We have voices of white supremacy and racism seeking and being granted airtime and stoking social tensions.
- We have religious leaders more beholden to supporting a political party than calling us as a nation to justice for the disenfranchised.
- We have news media so interested in corporate profit margins they have been depleting their ranks of journalists.
- We have a corporate culture that has shifted to such a focus on profits and stock prices that any semblance of caring for the needs of workers and the communities they serve has been lost.
- We have a health care system being governed more by that same drive for profit margins than any concern for the health of our society.
- We have a justice system focused on punishing marginalized populations for lower-level crimes, turning a blind eye to large-scale corruption and turning profits for special interests, like a privatized prison industry.
- We have politicians at all levels of government focused on retaining power and being reelected to the exclusion of tackling these deep issues we face as a nation.
- We have eroding public infrastructure.
- We have growing educational access inequality, especially in relation to required distance learning in a pandemic.
- We have an unaddressed shift away from the enforcement of antitrust laws.
- We have regulation systems that privilege the wealthy and powerful at the expense of all competition.
- We have corporate interests exerting way too much influence upon government and the politicians whose task should be to keep them in check for the welfare of the nation.
- We still have impacts of climate change to address, including sea-level rise in coastal communities, more named storms than at any other time in history, wildfires due in large part to changing weather patterns, increases in flooding, air and water quality decreases, needing to shift toward renewable energy sources and needing to change land-use patterns.
As a nation, we could do so much better, but we have allowed those working behind the scenes to gain way too much power.
We have not held our politicians accountable. We have not demanded better of our representatives.
We have remained far too silent, far too detached, far too willing to go along with the flow as the gains and progress of former generations have been eroded.
We can’t take this status quo much longer and expect things to turn up roses. At some point, the best of fruit trees need pruning.
Orchards need attention and care. Dying trees must be replanted. Soil must be fertilized. Pests must be addressed.
We must take a stand and get about fulfilling our responsibilities if we are to have a government that is truly “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Whatever path we choose, at the end of the day it will be developed at the consent of the governed.
What will our votes mean? Whatever they mean, they will not be enough to bridge the great divides that plague us and get us on track to addressing so many larger issues.
That will take much more than standing in a line for half a day.
Formerly a Baptist missionary in Mexico and Brasil, Harbin is a Provisional Elder with the United Methodist Church in Wingate, North Carolina. He has written several books, including On Immigration: Surveying Biblical Teaching on Issues of Immigration, Immigrants, Foreigners, and Strangers.