Election day is nearly upon us, and there are matters big and small to vote on. At the national level, of course, is the presidential race, with the major candidates being Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Then there is the state level, with Angus King, an independent, running to take Olympia Snowe’s senate seat, and it’s my guess that he will get it. We also have a gay marriage referendum question, and it seems as though it will pass, making Maine the first state to do so by popular vote. On the town level, we have Farmer Craig Hickman hoping to be elected as a state representative, and he is running against one of my neighbors, Scott Davis. We have an exciting library trustee election, where two excellent write-in candidates—Pearl Ames and Maureen Whitestone—are competing for one seat.
No two ways about it, tomorrow is an important day for our country, our state, our town. I will be going to the polls to vote, as I always do. No absentee ballot for me. I like going to the town hall, where the elections are held, and seeing people I know working at the polls. I like going into one of the booths with the striped curtains. In cocooned privacy, I like carefully marking my ballot. Sometimes, in the booth next to me, a child is lolling on the floor by a parent’s feet, and that young child is getting a lesson in civic duty. Then, I like going to the machines, which suck up my ballots, different machines for different ballots, and usually I know the people who are tending the machines. And then, good citizen that I am, I get a sticker for my coat. I voted, the sticker proclaims. Yes, I did.
I don’t often overtly discuss politics on this blog, which is primarily about food and community, but the day before the election seems like a good day to do so. It will perhaps come as no surprise that I will be casting my ballot for Barack Obama. We have many challenges as a country and a planet—climate change, peak oil, and a growing population that threatens to reach 9 billion by 2050. In the rich countries, especially in the U.S., our levels of consumption are out of control. Yet, ironically, more and more people struggle to maintain a comfortable lifestyle as the gap widens between the very wealthy and the rest of us. I could go on and on, but I won’t.
The point is, we need to work together as a country to address these problems, and when I write “we,” I mean individuals and government. Together. Not each person struggling on his or her own with a callous government looking away as people suffer. With his words and actions President Obama understands this, and the federal response to Hurricane Sandy beautifully illustrates his philosophy. Right from the start, the national guard was there when people needed help. Water and supplies were delivered, and there has been nothing like the horror of Katrina, were people were left in squalor, deserted by a government that had a disdain for helping people who were not wealthy campaign donors.
Barack Obama, for all his faults—he is nowhere near as progressive as I would like—grasps that we are all in this together. He knows that the best societies are those where the government pitches in to generously help people when times are hard—as they have after hurricane Sandy—or with matters that are too big for individuals to tackle on their own, matters such as health care, climate change, and education.
I fear a United States that doesn’t come together to address important issues, to look after all its citizens—the weak and the middle class as well as the strong and the rich. I see countries where this is the norm, and the results are not pretty. Countries such as Somalia, Sudan, even India, which is a democracy. Societies where people scrabble furiously just to stay alive. Then I look to the Scandinavian countries, with their generous social policies, where the mission is to ensure that all people have a decent life. And it shows. The Scandinavian countries are productive and forward thinking, leaders not only in literacy but also in green energy. They are not perfect, but I do believe that right now, they are as good as it gets.
Really the choice couldn’t be clearer. Why is that so many people don’t see this? It will always be a mystery to me, and I can only hope that those of us who perceive that we have to work together—together!—to make the country, this planet, a decent place to live—will prevail tomorrow.