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The right to vote

part_1414966271790_20141102_161041As someone who works with ancestral spirits it is important for me to acknowledge that my ancestors put themselves on the line so that I would have the right to have a voice in how my life would be governed.

In fact everyone in this country has the right to vote because some ancestor put their lives on the line for that right.

If you are a white male landowner you have the right to vote because we fought for independence from hereditary kingship.   Right to vote 1776.

If you are a white male who does not own land, but who is strongly in support of states rights when you got the right to vote varied considerably.  This was a state by state decision and the last state finally came in almost 100 years after the revolution.  Right to vote 1856.

If you are a Native American you pretty much didn’t have the right to vote until you’d been educated away from your people.  The boarding school era, where children were ripped from their homes and sent away to school where they were given Christian names and punished for speaking their native languages was from the late 1800 into the 1900’s.   Congress granted the right to vote in 1924, but again some states maintained their right to prevent natives from voting and did (despite congress) until after WWII.  Right to vote 1957.

27 Sep 1948, New Mexico --- Federal courts ruled in favor of granting Native Americans the right to register and vote.  The New Mexico State Constitution had previously denied voting rights to those who did not pay property taxes while living on reservations lands. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

27 Sep 1948, New Mexico — Federal courts ruled in favor of granting Native Americans the right to register and vote. The New Mexico State Constitution had previously denied voting rights to those who did not pay property taxes while living on reservations lands. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

If you are female (and I am) you may have relatives born without the right to vote.  Women fought for the right to vote for over 70 years.  In the musical Hamilton the Skyler sisters are determined to make Jefferson include women in the rewrite.  Abigail Adams wrote to her husband “Don’t forget the women.”  The suffragettes  were beaten, jailed, ostracized and ridiculed.  These women were feminists and that word still has degrading implications.  Right to vote 1920.

If you are black in this country you are still struggling for your right to vote in some states.  Although blacks officially gained the right to vote in 1870 there were many barriers placed to keep them from the polls.  Plantation owners intimidated their workers and refused to allow time off or transportation.  Polling places required fees (often waived for poor whites and increased for middle class blacks) to vote.  There were “intelligence tests” demanded for registration.

The voting rights act of 1965 – which required a filibuster to pass congress – eliminated those discriminatory practices.  Unfortunately in 2013 the Supreme Court decided that the voting rights act was no longer relevant or necessary.   Some of the contention in this election and much of the concern we hear from the United Nations is because of the indication new versions of Jim Crow voter restrictions are being put into place.   Right to vote 1965-2013.  Currently depends on State and circumstances.

Peaceful protesters in the Jim Crow south

Peaceful protesters in the Jim Crow south

Immigrants have the right to vote (based on the above factors) when they become citizens of the United States.  However, the reality is that at the polls and in registering they need to prove that citizenship.  Again this is regulated by the states and that means that many natural born citizens who “look” like immigrants can and are being harassed at the polls.  Right to vote requires proof of citizenship.

So please, honor the ancestors and if you have the right to vote exercise that right.

Parades, Picnics, and Politics

Orion, my parents, and their friends waiting in line at the picnic

Orion, my parents, and their friends waiting in line at the picnic

Labor Day is a celebration given to us by the labor unions.  Regardless of your feelings about unions (it’s complicated), they did give us a 40 hour work week, child labor laws, minimum wage, workplace safety regulations, and a national holiday.  We celebrated with my parents and that means parades and picnics.  You can’t have a parade without political representation.  The local union puts on the picnic.

Talking to people it strikes me to question how spirituality impacts our political outlook. Given the hoopla about Kim Davis this seems a particularly topical point to ponder.

It’s clear to me that our beliefs are foundational to how we view political questions.  They impact how we prioritize issues.  They impact our personal behaviors.   It’s also clear to me that our beliefs shouldn’t ever simply be our politics.

The union sets up a buffet in the park and feeds whoever shows up. They sell tickets for a raffle.

The union sets up a buffet in the park and feeds whoever shows up. They sell tickets for a raffle.

The difference for me is that belief is about acceptance and politics  about understanding.  Beliefs are personal, politics impact the larger community and therefore must take the necessities of others into account.  Thing is, in America, where the political dialog is rated primarily on entertainment rather than information, it’s easy to get lazy.

Our founding fathers originally only gave the right to vote to male landowners.  The thought was these people had proven a stability and educational level necessary to understand the political issues.  The sexism and racism offend me.  Even the idea that people with money and education inherently understand the needs of the masses without those benefits is appalling.  Still, the notion that people at least make an effort at understanding the issues has some appeal.

Waiting for the parade - lunch with emus.

Waiting for the parade – lunch with emus.

We expect our legislators to at least understand.  The fact is that the issues are so complicated, and bills are so full of “extras”, that many of them are voting on the recommendations of their staffs.  We’ve heard several times in the past few years “I haven’t read the bill”.  (Go ahead and google it if you’re interested.)   How is the American public supposed to make good choices when the issues seem daunting even to our elected officials?

Back to the parade.  We rode on a political float for the local state representative to congress.  (Yes I’ve met him and can support his work, even if he’s not MY congressman.)   I’ve blogged before about small town parades and how the people throw candy from the floats.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “No candy, no vote!”

Dad, Orion, and I on the float

Dad, Orion, and I on the float

This is not high school.  It is illegal to buy and sell votes in this country.  It may seem that candy is a small thing compared to some of the wheeling and dealing that appears to go on behind the scenes, but in public it still counts.  This is clearly a lack of understanding of the process on the part of the voters.  It also points to a failure of the system.  Integrity is only questioned when it stands tall.

Here we come back around to spirituality.  Spiritual integrity is what Kim Davis is trying to cling to.  Unfortunately, integrity doesn’t have a leg to stand on when you’ve already compromised yourself.  If you don’t believe in something you don’t take a job where it’s demanded.  Or if the job rules change, as they did in this case, you quit and find a job you CAN perform.  She’s not being persecuted for her beliefs, as is often claimed, but for failure to perform the job.

Wearing a hajib to work probably won’t interfere with getting the work done.  It seems reasonable to allow that kind of accommodation.  Transferring someone in an organization to a place they don’t have to do work that compromises their values, like being drafted as a contentious objector, makes sense when it’s possible.  Looking for a job you can do as a vegetarian and animal rights activist at the slaughterhouse is probably not appropriate.

But these are big issues.  There are small places where we all compromise our spirituality to get along.  I drive places I could walk to.  I don’t recycle everything I could.  I’m not currently managing a compost pile.  I spend too much time indoors with the air conditioner and heater rather than outside in nature.  I’ll purchase things made in ways I object to because they are less costly.  I don’t always honor my body or take time to be grateful for my life.

We could all stand to do better both at honoring our spirit and understanding the complicated issues in the world around us.

Namaste

VOTE

PART_1414966271790_20141102_161041Mid-term elections.  What’s the point?   There are a lot of them actually.  It’s easy to get caught up in the Presidential races.  There’s a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of hype that goes into those campaigns.  It’s a high-profile race for a high-profile job.

Thing is, the mid-term elections are for jobs a lot closer to home.  The legislators aren’t representing the whole country, but your state.  The state office holders are representing your district (which at least includes your neighborhood).  City office holders determine things like snowplow schedules and lawn maintenance rules.

There are other even closer to home issues that come up on midterm ballots.  Sometimes there are local ordinances and issues – vote yes/vote no to a proposition that changes how things run in your city.  Or vote yes/vote no to a school tax referendum.

Yes there really was such an organization!

Yes there really was such an organization!

On the heels of Samhein, Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos I am reminded that many of our ancestors fought hard for the right to vote.   Women couldn’t vote in this country until 1920.  That’s 145 years that we couldn’t vote and less than 100 that we could.  Blacks, or at least black men, were theoretically given the right to vote nationally in 1870.  In both cases there was strong enough opposition that people actively worked to keep blacks and women from the polls.

Husbands would forbid their wives to vote, and pastors preached against women exercising that right.   Taxes, tests, and intimidation prevented most blacks from exercising their right to vote until the voting rights act of 1965.  We still see active legislation (like for voter ID’s), and intimidation to try and prevent “undesirable populations” from exercising their right to vote.

From the Minnesota Historical Society: Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Minnesota program, 1869. This program was presented at the first political convention black Minnesotans held after gaining the right to vote. The celebration held on January 1, 1869 in St. Paul also marked the creation of the Sons of Freedom, the first African American civil rights group in Minnesota.

From the Minnesota Historical Society: Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Minnesota program, 1869. This program was presented at the first political convention black Minnesotans held after gaining the right to vote. The celebration held on January 1, 1869 in St. Paul also marked the creation of the Sons of Freedom, the first African American civil rights group in Minnesota.

When we vote we stand on the backs of those who went before us.  As disenchanting as the system may be it still works better when there is more participation.   My daughter says she’s often not happy enough with either candidate to vote for them.   I explained to her about how people get to be on the ballot.

If there is a certain percentage voting for your party in the previous election, that party is automatically included on the ballot for next one.   I have voted for a 3rd party candidate just because I believe we should have more than two choices.  If I can’t vote for someone I like, I can at least vote for inclusion.

Minnesota has historically high voter turn out.  We are often highest in the country or at least in the top 5.  We tend to average about 67% turn out.  This year may be higher as they’ve expanded the rules for absentee ballots.   You no longer have to actually be absent.  Anyone could go down to their city hall and request a ballot, or request one on-line.  The city halls are set up as polling places, or you could take it home and mail it in (or drop it off another day).

City Hall was set up as a polling place, but we brought our ballots home.

City Hall was set up as a polling place, but we brought our ballots home.

Orion and I took full advantage of that this year and voted early.  It was much easier for us than finding our polling place (which moves depending on the year.)   It also meant we didn’t have to stand in line.  Additionally the accommodations for Orion’s disabilities are much more readily addressed at home than in a busy polling place.

So please, honor your ancestors and vote.

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Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way.  After the election this gravesite was visited by a number of women and decorated with their “I Voted’ stickers.

photo by Deborah Ketchum

photo by Deborah Ketchum

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