5 Victories on Election Day

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.” ~ Mitt Romney’s Concession Speech

It is November 7th, the day after the election (as I type this, election day has been over for less than 2 hours).

We know the winner of the presidential election. We don’t have to wait until December to be certain. There will, of course, be people who  cry “conspiracy” and claim that Obama couldn’t possibly have won, but as Mitt Romney has so obviously conceded, Barack Obama has earned four more years as the President of the United States of America.

If I wasn’t an atheist, I’d say, “Thank God.” Instead, I’ll just say, thank you, the American voter who saw past the rhetoric to vote for a better tomorrow. But, no, I’m not talking exclusively about the re-election of President Obama. I’m talking about all the larger victories of November 6th, 2012.

The 5 Greatest Victories of 11/6/12

1. The easiest (and most obvious) one is the re-election of Barack Obama. No, he isn’t the Messiah, but because I’m a rational person who isn’t looking for my politicians to turn water into wine, I’m just happy that the president of the United States is a man who has dedicated himself to fighting for those whose average income isn’t $1 Million a month. I don’t need my politicians to be immaculate elections, I just want them to be on the right side of history.

I believe Obama is.

2. The American Consumer has an advocate in the Senate. Elizabeth Warren, the passionate, intelligent liberal firebrand beat out the Republican incumbent in Massachusetts to take the seat and add a powerful voice to the political debate. Liberals should be happy about this victory, but women in particular should be ecstatic to be represented (in a general sense) by such a strong, passionate woman.

People like Warren give people like me hope.

3. Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington. Let me set something straight: I don’t smoke. Literally, tonight, I was offered a free toke and I passed. It’s just not my bag. And yet, I completely support the legalization of marijuana. Caffeine is a more dangerous drug than pot. Legalize it, tax it, and we as a nation will save millions from the “War On Drugs” while bringing in beaucoup cash. What will these victories mean for the nation as a whole? I’m not sure, but I suspect that the nation is on the slow march towards the national decriminalization of the herb.

 4. Rape won’t be defined by male Republicans. Both idiots, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, lost their races after making incomprehensible, completely ignorant statements about rape and the female bodies. It’s easy to grow cynical about the state of science, common sense and female rights in modern American politics, but today a couple of brain-dead neanderthals have lost their power. Since both candidates were leading at one point, I have to conclude that it was their idiotic statements that ultimately undid them.

Hopefully this will warn Republicans (and politicians of all stripes): Stop being stupid about women. They vote, and they don’t like idiots trying to control their bodies.

5. Maryland and Maine approved same-sex marriage by vote. By the end of the week, it’s very likely that Washington state will also have made the same historic leap. But for the sake of pithy, of-the-minute reactions, it only matters that as of November 6th, 2012, Maryland and Maine are the first states in these United States that approved same-sex marriage by a vote of the population. No longer can opponents claim that same-sex marriage has only been permitted by the activist decisions of liberal judges and legislators.

For the first time, the entire populace of a state went to the ballots and decided that bigotry is pretty crappy.

An amendment to the Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage is almost certainly a pipe dream. By the time Obama is winding down his eight years (!) as president, I’d bet 50% of the states will have legalized ‘same-sex marriage’ by some method or another. Good for them. Good for us. We are on the right side of history, and we’re only marching further into the world of true equality.

This is the America I believe in.

*

I don’t know what the next four years will bring about, but today is pregnant with potential and optimism. Who knows what 2016 will hold, but for now, we have the chance to take a giant leap forward. Let’s hope we don’t waste it.

Fireworks exploding in the sky

Vote

I voted for Obama in 2008. I lived in San Francisco and when the election results came through, the city erupted in a celebration that I  must imagine was only rivaled by the rapturous joy in Chicago.

On November 6th, 2012, we as a nation vote again, but no matter the winner, it seems unlikely the excitement will be as palpable as it was 4 years ago. For one, ‘Re-Electing the first black president’ doesn’t quite have the ring of ‘Electing the first black president.’ And while Romney would be the first Mormon president, who outside of Utah cares?

Also, despite the challenger’s rhetoric, our nation’s position isn’t as perilous as it was in 2008. 4 years ago, the recession was ongoing and the worst days were still ahead of us. Now, the recession is over and recovery is marching ahead, albeit not quite at warp speed. We aren’t selecting a president to pull us out of the path of a hurricane (though, if we were, Obama has proven his chops for that job). We are essentially stating that either Obama deserves 4 more years to continue the job or that his efforts are too little, too late.

Romney Vs. Obama

Frankly, despite some strong campaign moments late in the game, Romney has never effectively made this election a battle between him and Obama. It has always been Obama versus not-Obama. Some Romney supporters would obviously disagree, but we have to ask ourselves why, if Obama is the failure he’s painted as among the Conservative media, he is still by all mathematical accounts the heavy favorite to win.

The answer is simple: Romney has founded his campaign on voter dissatisfaction. Not voter enthusiasm or even voter anger (though, naturally, there are some angry voters out there). At his most honest (which is a rare sight), the best Romney can do is say “Obama, meh.” Just look at the final presidential debate where he basically agreed with Obama on every stance before saying, “But I’d be better.”

Being the masochist that I am, I frequently read the comments sections of online articles. It tends to be the same annoying back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives (let’s make a deal: Libs will stop writing ‘Rmoney’ if Cons will stop writing ‘Obummer’. Neither one is all that clever and it undermines any point you’re trying to make). But in the last couple weeks, it seems like the Conservative commentators have all decided the Benghazi attack is Obama’s greatest Achilles’ Heel (bringing it up even on completely unrelated articles). This is interesting for a couple of reasons.

One, it indicates that they apparently realize a lot of their other attacks on Obama, especially on the economy, are pretty toothless in the face of good job numbers and other signs that the economy is rebounding.

Two, it begs the question: If the Benghazi attacks hadn’t happened (a mere two months ago), what would they be complaining about? Some conservative nutters have implied that Hurricane Sandy was good luck for Obama, but if that’s the case, the Benghazi attacks seem to have been good luck for Romney. Without it, the last two months of his campaign would have had nothing but bald dissatisfaction to hang its hat on.*

Considering all that, I don’t suspect this election night to be as electric as it was in 2008 (New Orleans doesn’t seem all that engaged in this election, at least compared to 2008 San Fran).

Regardless of the ‘enthusiasm gap’, though, it’s still important to vote. It’s important whether you’re voting for Obama, Romney or one of those other people that apparently exist (I kid because I care). Yes, in most states, the winner is pretty much predetermined. Yes, even of the many swing states, Ohio seems to be the single key to the whole shebang. Yes, a president could win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote (e.g. Bush v. Gore).

So why, if your name isn’t Bob Undecided-Voter from Cleveland (it’s German), should you vote?

Why Vote?

First, no matter where you live, when they total the popular vote, yours counts. Why does that matter? Well, if you are, for instance, an Obama supporter, you want him to win both the Electoral College and the popular vote (this is true, of course, if you support Romney, but the likelihood of him winning the EC but losing the popular is considerably smaller). Nothing would give the opposition greater pleasure than to say, “Yeah, you won, but not with the support of the majority of the nation. We’ll gladly continue or obstructionist ways, claiming the ‘mandate.'”

Or as one political strategist put it: “It’s going to encourage more hyperpartisanship.”

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, that’s not a good thing.

The other reason to vote is because your vote isn’t just for the president, it’s against the nakedly un-Democratic actions of states legislators across this country that have tried to restrict the vote in the name of protecting against ‘voter fraud’, fraud that simply doesn’t exist. And don’t think these sorts of restrictions were only popping up in the swing states. In the past two years, the vast majority of states have passed voting restrictions.

As partisan as I admittedly am (I’m not a Democrat, just a hyper-liberal), I do attempt to be fair when both parties are being stupid. But in this case, there is no question, the voting restrictions have been enacted predominantly by Republicans with a clear interest in disenfranchising voters who historically vote Democrat. Luckily, time after time, there have been people fighting these sickening efforts. But that hasn’t stopped some last minute efforts to suppress the vote.

We need to vote, no matter what state we live in, no matter who we’re voting for, because that’s the best way to undermine these cynical efforts to impede the rights of U.S. citizens. Ideally, the electorate would kick these legislators out of office the first chance they get, but that’s not likely to happen, at least not this election.

I don’t care if you like Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Jill Stein or Ross Perot (remember that guy?), any attempt to suppress the voting rights of your fellow citizens should bother you. Yes, your guy might have a better chance of winning, but is that really the democracy you want? Is that what our soldiers fight for and what our forefathers risked their lives to create? We know it isn’t.

So, if you haven’t voted already, get to your polling place on Tuesday, and encourage your friends and family to vote as well. It’s a half hour of your day, at most.

Maybe your one vote won’t chance the outcome of the election, but it could change the course of the nation all the same.

And on election night 2012, that’s the win we can all celebrate, no matter who wins the presidency.

*Whether the Benghazi attacks are really all that big of a liability for Obama has yet to be truly seen. My guess: Not really.

Lesser of Two Evils?

At this stage in 2012, the fact that there are undecided voters can be pretty shocking to those who have known for months (years?) who they were going to put their support behind. Some want Obama to get a second term, a continuing chance to fulfill some of the incomplete promises or missed opportunities of his first term (and continue with his outright successes). Others want Romney (or not-Obama) to take over the office to fix the economy that’s still stagnant 4 years later and repeal everything the incumbent has done over his first terms.

There are two types of undecided voters: Those who see that both candidates have their pros and cons and are still trying to determine whose pros outweigh their cons. And then there are those who see nothing but cons, a litany of ills that makes both men unfit for office, yet they (accurately) feel that throwing their vote to a third party candidate would be like tossing a bucket of water at a forest fire.

The first type are (hopefully) studying the candidates, researching their policies and figuring out which political sacrifices are more costly than others.

The second type are just going to pick the ‘Lesser of Two Evils.’

The Lesser of Two Evils

I’m bothered by this phrase. It’s likely one I’ve uttered at some time, and as a mere cliché phrase, it’s not so bad. You immediately get the point.

But in an election season, especially one as contentious and loaded with the weight of AMERICA’S FUTURE like this one, the phrase starts to become more than just pithy reduction and more of an accurate portrayal of what people believe they’re choosing between.  Namely, evil. Obama is an evil Socialist Muslim. Romney is an evil Bourgeois Mormon.

They want to strip away our freedoms. They want to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. They want us to be dependent on the government, or they want to prevent the government from helping those who need it. They want to see Israel fall or they want to continue policies that keep other nations in poverty.

It would appear that we have two candidates (and two political parties) who have more evil aspirations for the planet than the entire line-up of Bond villains.

And we know this because each party tells us what the other party is secretly planning. Thanks to mouthpieces like Fox News and MSNBC, the general population is inundated with the hidden agendas of our evil overlords, which thankfully, come in easy-to-digest, chewable Elephant and Donkey fun-shapes.

(Thanks to bloggers… like me?… those of us who don’t normally watch televised news still get the recycled and rehashed talking points fed to us intravenously.)

I just have one problem with this.

I’m not evil (pretty sure about this). And I voted for Obama, even still like Obama. This would seemingly indicate that Obama isn’t evil. Which leads me to believe that Romney isn’t evil.

If I’m to believe the vitriolic and apocalyptic rhetoric coming out of the camps of the Left, how can I not take seriously the like-minded warnings emanating from the mouths of their goatee-wearing, Mirror Universe counterparts?

I always have a problem when people speak for other people’s motivations, especially when they speak for en entire swath of the population. Parsing out the personal motivation of one person isn’t necessarily all that difficult, especially if you spend any amount of time with them. I pride myself on being able to deduce the thoughts and secret foundations beneath people’s actions once I’ve gotten to know them, but it’s always a risk to assume such foreknowledge about someone whom I’ve never met (no matter how sexy House makes it look).

Everyone seems to do it. Politicians, celebrities, artists, any public figure is subject to our insightful analysis. My problem is that I’ve met a lot of people, and most of us aren’t even astute enough to determine our own motivations, let alone those of people we only see through a screen.

It all starts to feel a lot like religion. People proclaiming a grasp on an unknowable truth, all the while shoveling disdain on other people’s version of ‘truth,’ never grasping the irony. Well, I didn’t buy it on Sundays, I’m not going to buy it on Tuesdays, either.

I don’t like Romney’s policies, no matter how many times he changes them. I really don’t like his running mate, Ryan’s, policies. There are aspects of Obama’s first term that are disheartening and generally I’m concerned when powerful nations use their status to bully or control other nations (I’m concerned when powerful anythings do this). But I like most of Obama’s policies and not only that, I like Obama’s policies more than any of the pointless third-party candidates. I’m not having to pick the lesser of two evils, because I want to vote for Obama.

I’m also not picking the lesser of two evils because neither Obama or Romney are evil. Hitler was evil. Pol Pot was evil. Stephanie Meyer was evil. Obama and Romney, they’re just politicians, on opposite (though not that polar) sides of a pretty mild spectrum.

If you want to vote for Romney, I’m probably going to want to debate you. Not whether or not he’s evil incarnate, but whether or not there’s any historical precedent for cutting taxes in a recession or whether gay marriage really undermines ‘traditional marriage.’ These are debates worth having, conversations that I think are even worth getting heated up over. And they’re the conversations evil dictators very rarely get entangled in, because, you know, they’re killing thousands of people.

And no matter who wins, Obama (yay!) or Romney (boo!), in four years we get to decide all over again. If we’ve moved in a truly untenable direction, we have the ability to right the ship a few years later. That’s the beauty of our system, it’s the genius of our forefathers and it’s the reason that all these people swearing that we’re heading towards a dictatorship are hyperbolic dunderheads.

So in conclusion: Suck it Romney! Obama 2012!

Obama Supports Same-Sex Marriage

There’s not much I’m going to add to this video right now.  I believe this to be a tipping point for the movement (the first standing President to support same-sex marriage) and very likely a re-awakening of enthusiasm for Obama’s base.

In the next few days, pundits will go back and forth debating what this means, what it’ll change (if anything) and arguing whether this is just Obama playing politics.  None of that matters.

Today is a momentous day for the fight for equal rights.  I’ll let Obama speak for himself:

I Want An Atheist President

#Iwantanatheistpresident

It’s May, now, which means only 4 years and 7 months until the 2016 presidential election.

Of course, before that, we have to survive this one.

Since Mitt Romney is the Republican Nominee (yes, I know, not technically, but…) and we have a 2-party system in which a 3rd party can never hope to be anything but a minor nuisance to one or both candidates, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

I don’t want that to sound like I’m ‘choosing the lesser of two evils’ or something of that nature.  I like Obama.  He’s my president.  I am by no means enthralled with everything that has happened under his presidency and he has definitely punted on some issues when he should have probably fought harder.  But, I’m a pragmatist and a realist and I know how politics works.  Which is to say, it doesn’t.  You get your guy (or gal) in office and you should be ecstatic if even a tenth of the campaign promises get fulfilled.  Part of that is because politicians lie, and part of that is because our government is an intricate (one might even say, convoluted) system that favors the status quo over change (sometimes too our national detriment).

Some of us who voted for Obama in 2008 were probably a little too naively optimistic for the changes his presidency would bring, but better foolishly hopefully than filled with the paranoia and hatred that marks his most vehement opponents.

One of the most exciting moments of Obama’s presidency, for me, came very early on.  As in, the day of his Inauguration early.  For the first time ever, ‘non-believers’ were expressly mentioned in an inaugural speech.  The pertinent excerpt:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.”

I remember hearing that and feeling an even greater sense of pride in my president, which was already pretty high.  The President of the United States acknowledged that, indeed, there are people in this country that don’t believe in any god, any faith, and they should be included in the conversation and recognized as part of our nation’s heritage.

A Christian has no idea what that moment feels like.  Despite talk of ‘attacks on religious freedom’ and ‘the War on Christmas,’ there has never been a question that Christians are always part of the equation.  Though the U.S. is secular (no matter what David Barton falsely claims), the truth is that this nation is still predominantly Christian in its make-up and politics.

When you’re a person who doesn’t belong to any particular faith and refuses to pretend to believe in a god, you tend to get left out of the conversation, intentionally or not.

Almost every single man who has been President of the United States has been nominally Christian.  We have to go back to William Howard Taft for a President who may have been an atheist, though he denied it (Wikipedia lists him as Unitarian).  The further back we go in history, the more we find that the Presidents were willing to eschew official religious affiliation, though most were still some denomination of Christian.

There are still some who claim that Obama is a secret Muslim, which is ridiculous.  But, I’m interested to see if those people will vote for a Mormon, since most likely in their view Mormonism is not Christianity, and thus a false religion (I was raised believing Mormonism was a cult; from a theological point of view, I do think Mormonism constitutes a different religion from Christianity, but since I’m not a Christian, I feel the point is moot).

For some people this will be an election between a Mormon and a Christian (who’s really a Muslim).  The Evangelical right will likely choose the lesser of two evils as they see it.  Or as pastor David Jeffries said recently:

…Given the choice between a Christian like Barack Obama who embraces non-biblical principles like abortion and a Mormon like Mitt Romney who embraces Bible principles, there’s every reason to support Mitt Romney in this election.

It’s all about principles, after all.  Like, the principle of standing for what you believe.

While Christians may have to wrestle with their faith this year, we atheists will vote on the issues we care about and the policies we think better lead our country forward.  Many of us will vote for Obama.  I’m sure a healthy contingent will vote for Romney, and there will even be a good number who throw their vote away on Ron Paul (aren’t I a stinker). 

Atheists aren’t a singular voting block.  We don’t have a Pope or an Evangelical Conference to tell us which way to throw our vote.  Sure, many of us revere the same men (Dawkins, Sagan), but those people don’t tell us who to vote for, and we wouldn’t listen if they did.

We call ourselves Freethinkers.  Yeah, it’s a self-aggrandizing title, so sue us.

While you will find online groups for atheists and a growing number of organizations attempting to bring some cohesion to a historically disparate group (it’s like herding cats), our very nature tends to make us resistant to unification.  After all, we are the kind of people who critically question everything and many of us at some point intentionally left behind a community of faith.  Of course, even as I write that, I have to admit that many atheists probably don’t fit that description.

And that’s the point.  Atheists only share one thing in common:  We have no belief in a god.  We don’t “have faith that there isn’t a god.”  We simply don’t accept that there is evidence for a god and thus remain at our default position: No faith.

There isn’t an American atheist alive today who has ever seen their lack of faith reflected in their president.  Granted, Muslims and Jews are in their same spot, but as this well-trod survey shows, atheists have a greater hill to climb to the White House.*

I want an Atheist President.  I want an Atheist President exactly because his or her views will be that of a freethinker, and thus not inherently locked into one stance.  S/He could be a Republican or a Democrat.  S/He could be a wartime president or a lockstep pacifist.  S/He could hold any stance on any number of issues without beholding to faith.  That doesn’t mean s/he would oppose faith or religion, only that their stance towards it would be a dispassionate acceptance of it based on the principles of the Constitution (Establishment Clause/Free-Exercise Clause) and reason.

There will always be a portion of Americans who believe that atheists are evil, the scum of the earth, as useful as a third tit.  Atheist President isn’t going to get their vote.

But there is no reason intelligent, moderate Christians should oppose an atheist.  I have Christian friends who support gay marriage, oppose the death penalty, believe in a strong safety net for the poor and are supportive of equal rights across the board.  In other words, if I was running for president (if I could find time in my busy schedule of child sacrifices and depraved sex), a substantial percentage of the non-Evangelical Christians, the same ones who voted for Obama, could vote for me, an atheist.

Now, I have no personal political ambitions (blech!), but there are plenty of atheists out there who do.  As an atheist, I hope that in my lifetime I see an atheist in the White House.  Let’s be clear: I don’t want to see it because I think it’ll mean all of my interests will be represented. 

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that the unofficial religious test for Presidency which has been in effect for at least 100 years will finally be abolished. 

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that a majority of Americans accept that a lack of faith does not equal a lack of character.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that intelligence, experience and ideas matter more than church affiliation.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean the president will take responsibility for his or her decisions.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that the promise of Religious Freedom will finally be fulfilled.

You don’t have to be an atheist to want an Atheist President.  You can be a believer and accept us non-believers.  You can understand that what makes me an atheist doesn’t undermine my integrity.  In fact, it strengthens it.

In 2012, the presidential candidates each profess faith in a higher being.  I have no problem with that, I only care about their policies.  Their faith, in my mind, is no more pertinent to their qualifications for president as whether they are left or right-handed.  As long as faith is not a motivation for political policy, you can believe anything at all and be president.  Or believe nothing at all.

It’s okay to vote for an atheist.  We come in peace.

If you want an Atheist President because you know that one faith doesn’t have a monopoly on morality, ethics and compassion, say it with me: I Want An Atheist President.  Tweet it with me: #Iwantanatheistpresident.

You don’t have to be an atheist to be a freethinker.

*The question specific to the presidency was asked in 1999, prior to the 9/11 attacks, so undoubtedly Muslims have taken a hit since then.  But as the other surveys reveal, even after the attacks atheists remain the least trusted group across the board.

EDIT: My suspicions were correct, Muslims did take a considerable Public Relations hit after 9/11, but atheists still remain the least trusted group.

Not With A Bang, But A ‘Whoomp’

This weekend in Seattle, the clouds broke for the first time in what seems like ages.  Sunlight blanketed the city and friends drank sangria on rooftops as boats passed through the Sound.

But not all scenes were so idyllic.  On one grassy field, in some fiery hearts, a war was brewing.

Here, in the shadow of the rapier form of the Space Needle, a small but fevered crowd of combatants arrived, summoned by the demiurgic will of Ares, and possibly their Facebook feeds.

They came dressed for battle, faces painted, pillows fluffed.  Teeth bared.

The fight began.  One minute there was peace, the next war.  No one could say who struck first, but if you were to ask each individual who was there, they would tell you that war does not begin.  It just is.

At times it seemed if it was every man for himself, every woman for herself, brother against brother, father against child, feathers indiscriminate in their cutting arcs.

But then, out of chaos arose form.  An alliance, a tenuous and certainly uneasy truce to solder power into a single striking force.

For a moment it seemed the war could end at the hands of the behemoth.  But brute strength proved no match for the furious onslaught of the swarming hive.

The battle raged, the feathers flew and the sky, at times, looked as if the very clouds had broken like glass across the verdant field, only to blow away moments later.

Crowds watched from every corner and at times innocent bystanders would feel the sting of an errant blow.  Within the hour, it was hard to distinguish between the soldiers and the onlookers, the wounded and the relaxing comfortably in the grass on a nice spring day.  There was no wall.  Humans.  We were all humans on the field of battle, and those of us who believed we could watch the fight with impartial distance would only see our childish fantasy break apart like a cheap Wal-Mart pillow.

Even I have tasted the bitter blade.

The battle ended, as they all do, not with a bang, but a ‘whoomp.’  Whether because of exhaustion or depleted forces, or because the pillow fight was only scheduled to last an hour.

The field cleared of feathers, but not memories.

The battle is over, but the war continues, from one day to the next, from one generation to the next.

If we cannot resolve our differences, should we be surprised when our children rise and take up pillows against each other?

We live today, to fight again tomorrow.