Voting Day by Sara Frykenberg


Sara FrykenbergCan we think of the voting place as an altar where we hole-punch a prayer to the honored dead?

This past Sunday, Barbara Adinger wrote a beautiful blog entitled “November, a Silent Month?” While welcoming the November darkness and a “delicious melancholy composed of silence and rest” settling over her home, Adinger reminds us that: no, we are not silent.

As human beings protesting invisibility and the erasure of the history of the marginalized, we are not silent. Given special command(ment)s to be silent in far too many patriarchal and kyriarchal religions, we cannot silently accept the violence, abuse and invisibility forced upon us or upon those whose struggle is different than our own.

At times, silence is a survival strategy. But this year and last, I am striving to thrive instead.

At times, silence is an important place of meditation: a spiritual necessity, an oasis and praxis in the creation of peace. But, today, my meditations lead me to speak.

When first reading “a silent month,” in the title above, I thought to myself: “I hope not.” I am glad that Barbara agrees. Today—November 4th, aka, “voting day”—those of us living with the privilege of citizenship in the United States have a responsibility to speak. As a woman, I also have a responsibility to my feminist sisters and brothers who won me this right—an inheritance that has become increasingly important to me.

"White House Demonstration," Image sourced from: http://www.vintageperiods.com/suffrage.php, accessed Nov. 2014

“White House Demonstration,” click image for source: accessed Nov. 2014

I have not always voted, particularly at midterm elections. I live in California, a pretty solidly blue state as far as presidential campaigns are concerned. We are not a “swing state.” But during presidential elections there is often a flurry of excitement and a sense of importance that accompanies the physically awkward act of standing in a plastic box and punching holes in a card. It is easy to want to vote, to vote with conscience or at least, intentionality, during the presidential elections. Midterm elections can seem boring or unimportant by comparison; and according to a report I heard on NPR this past week—many women, single women in particular, seem to agree and stay at home on non-presidential elections years.

I have been through many phases in my attitudes towards voting. I have voted hopefully. I have voted irregularly, and then, regularly. I have studied the issues; and at times, I voted without educating myself before hand, choosing women candidates based solely upon the idea that I thought we should have more women in office from a particular political party. I have voted and not voted cynically and resigned to my own powerlessness, feeling my vote really did not really make a difference after all. I think this last attitude has often been the hardest for me to shake. It is easy to feel we do not have a say. Reading online articles when preparing to write this blog, I came upon a piece that basically told me what was going to happen during the midterm elections. Discouraging. I hadn’t even voted yet and I already felt doomed.

"African American Women are shut out of the National American Women's Suffrage Association," image sourced from: http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/ourselves_alone/ourselves-alone.html, accessed Nov. 2014

“African American Women are shut out of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association,” click image for source. Accessed Nov. 2014

BUT—that’s where I want to catch myself. I-felt-doomed: I believed what this article was telling me. I took it on faith, just like I took my own worthlessness and brokenness on faith when practicing patriarchal religion.

“You’re broken now, Sara, but the more you give over to God, the more whole you will feel.”

“You don’t think that the way you feel is how you should feel, Sara. You thought you did everything you were supposed to do—I mean, felt everything you were supposed to feel. Search yourself for what more of yourself you should give.”

These messages are warning signs to me now, telling me that I am participating in my own silence. I would rather be struggling halfway as myself, than full of someone else’s story of my life, my feelings and my identity. The article I read online tonight may be correct, prophesizing the future. But I also refuse to accept this prophecy’s authority over me.

Too often I conceive of my power to vote in terms of the difference it will make in the existent kyriarchal system. My vote may or may not impact this system: sometimes I am sure that it does, and sometimes, I am equally sure that it does not. However, this year I am starting to think differently about how my vote “makes a difference.”

Dia De Los Muertos Celebration, LA, photo by Lalo Alcaraz of NBC Latino, image sourced from: http://nbclatino.com/2012/11/02/photos-dia-de-los-muertos-celebrations-around-the-world/#s:21196_448423481871042_653039052_n, Accessed Nov. 2014

Dia De Los Muertos Celebration, LA, photo by Lalo Alcaraz of NBC Latino, click image for source. Accessed Nov. 2014

Komako Kimura, Japanese Sufragist, at women's right to vote march, Oct. 1917, New York City  Image sourced from: http://www.pinterest.com/historybyzim/women-s-suffrage-movement/, Accessed Nov. 2014

Komako Kimura, Japanese Sufragist, at women’s right to vote march, Oct. 1917, New York City
Click image for source. Accessed Nov. 2014

I think my vote makes a difference to my feminist mothers. This past weekend Los Angeles (among many other communities) celebrated Dia de los Muertos: a day when one celebrates the departed with us, and honors their ongoing presence in our lives and communities. I do not usually celebrate this holiday, but I am inspired by it to act in reverence. Can we think of the voting place as an altar where we hole-punch a prayer to the honored dead?

My vote makes a difference to my growing sense of indignation and protest. I watched and read and dialogued with anger this year, witnessing the Hobby Lobby’s victory while tasting the bitterness of this defeat—the further commodification of my human rights and dignity.

I read a conservative article celebrating the failure of Planned Parenthood’s challenge of recently passed “pro-life” laws in Texas. The article said the law was ‘saving women,’ from ‘back-ally-type abortions,’ and from receiving the abortion pill, ‘that’s not good for women’s health.’ I was sickened by the pejorative attitude of the article, and wanted to scream: stop ‘protecting’ me from my own rights!

Worse still is the way in which Voter ID laws are increasingly preventing people from even accessing their right to vote under the guise of protecting “us” from voter fraud.  Maintaining the right to vote and the means to for people to access their right to vote is crucially important to justice-making work within the United States.

A Cartoon from the Houston Chronicle, sourced from: http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/05/12/this-cartoon-says-it-all/, accessed Nov. 2014

A Cartoon from the Houston Chronicle, click on image for source, accessed Nov. 2014

Finally, I think my vote makes a difference in my ongoing commitment to social justice and ethical praxis. The more I educate myself, and the more I take part, the more I realize that it is not enough to only vote. Voting is one important act.

There are other acts, (to echo Barbara’s blog one more time here) “for we have found our words of power.” And like a name, my own name—the ability to name myself—there is a special kind of magic in these words.

 Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D.: Graduate of the women studies in religion program at Claremont Graduate University, Sara’s research considers the way in which process feminist theo/alogies reveal a kind transitory violence present in the liminal space between abusive paradigms and new non-abusive creations: a counter-necessary violence.  In addition to her feminist, theo/alogical and pedagogical pursuits, Sara is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, and a level one Kundalini yoga teacher.

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Categories: Activism, civil rights, Community, power, Women's Rights

Tags: , ,

5 replies

  1. I voted absentee. Fingers crossed women’s rights and human rights and voting rights will not be trampled in this election.

    I had a hard time voting “for Democrats” this time, as I do not support renewed war engagement in the Middle East.

    But I remind myself of Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court’s recent decisions to allow voting rights to be curtailed, and the Republicans’ continuing war against the right to abortion and now even the right to contraception. Then there is the minimum wage, equal pay, and health care. Things could be a whole lot worse than they are now.

    If you are not convinced it is important to vote check out Why It Matters if the Republicans Take the Senate on last night’s All In Chris Hayes http://www.msnbc.com/all

    So please please vote if you can.

    Like

  2. A blog post by Daniel Halper, the Weekly Standard magazine’s online editor, Nov. 1:

    This election might determine whether the “climate crisis” is solved, former Vice President Al Gore claims. The former politician makes the statement in a fundraising email from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    “Here’s what I believe,” writes Gore:

    “There is nothing more pressing in our time than confronting and solving the climate crisis.

    “We have no time to spare. We must act now. Luckily, we have all the tools we need to solve this challenge. All we need is political will—but political will is a renewable resource!

    “That’s why the election on November 4th is so monumentally important. President Obama is now leading on this issue—but we need to elect more Democrats dedicated to putting the future of our planet before the interests of Big Oil and Coal and other large carbon polluters who demand the right to use our atmosphere as an open sewer without any accountability.”

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  3. I love this reflection! Voting has always been important to me, and you’ve articulated for me the reasons I feel about it the way I do.

    Like

  4. Many thanks for reading and referring to my blog and deciding (again) not to be silent. I’ll be going out to vote in two or three hours. Just for the record, I voted Republican once. That was in 1976, when I voted (absentee from California, where I had just moved) for Jim Thompson to be governor of Illinois (where I went to school). Thompson was one of the Illinois governors who did not go to jail.

    I hope everyone who lives in the U.S. and can vote will go out to vote. Or, like Carol, vote absentee. Maybe our individual votes seem not to count, but we can eventually build up into a critical mass of votes that make changes in our government.

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  5. Yes vote! At the very least (what I remind my cynical self) your vote can cancel out your uber-right-wing gun toting Rush Limbaugh-loving neighbor’s vote.

    And then there is that sexy “I voted!” sticker you get when you leave….

    Like

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