He Loves Me, He Loves me Not.
It was the tenth time he called. Him again, urgently trying to win me with his deep, passionate voice. His desperation knew no bounds. There were letters, Facebook messages, and notes stuck in my door.
But the phone stalking had to stop. I sighed, resisting Pavlovian tendencies to pick up the receiver again. It wasn’t just his pursuit tactics that repelled me. It was the one-sided relationship we had: He desired only one thing. And it wasn’t me.
This is the double-edged sword that is election season. For six short weeks, we are debutantes – pursued, “valued,” wooed, and then instantly forgotten after that second Tuesday of November: Conditional love, at its finest. We knew it would never last – as shallow, duplicitous relationships never do. Still, somehow, as responsible citizens, we wade through the pathos, and choose.
Pride and Privilege
I approach voting much like I used to take exams: I start cramming just before (because I have a few other life responsibilities, like keeping my children alive. No excuse for college). I wade through the study material in the blue books, small surges of power flowing through my veins, as I decide which amendments, propositions, judges, and candidates get to stay or go. Carefully, I fill each circle – resisting old standardized test temptations to create pictures with them instead.
I feel a deep sense of pride as I drive to the nearest early voting center, because I’m “early” — day-before-election-day-early. I nod condescendingly at the road-side campaign signs, pretending they’ve always made sense.
I feel empowered, decisive, and patriotic all at once. Moments later, I stand alone in a group of vacant voting booths. It feels surreal. There are ten other people in the room – the wonderful and eager election volunteers who accosted me at the door with nothing else to do. (They voted months ago). I think I was the first outsider they’d seen in days.
Usually, I pass go (the volunteer mob), turn in my pre-signed ballot and collect the coveted “I Voted” sticker – yet another source of voter pride. But this year was different. Driving there, in that flood of decisiveness, I flipped on a candidate. (Maybe it was the flyer I saw about him from his opponent: The one where his head was convincingly photo-shopped to look like it was behind bars . . . just the head.)
Stooping over the new ballot, I felt the approving eyes of my new friends around the room, and the adrenaline rush of wielding great decision-making power. I felt the pride and privilege of being a US citizen, until I realized something: I deserved none of it.
My grandparents and mother immigrated here with nothing, committed to steadily earning their citizenship through years of perseverance. I needed only to be born on U.S. soil – my mom enduring the lion’s share of that labor. My citizenship came without sacrifice or hardship; rather, it was a byproduct of others’. My commitment to vote (comprising a brief study session and short drive) suddenly seemed trivial. The pride that swelled in me deflated instantly, a punctured balloon. Not even an “I Voted” sticker could redeem it. It left space for me to ponder a second truth, about that other citizenship of mine.
He Loves Me.
This one too was undeserved and won at great cost.
Here again I encountered a Lover in pursuit, desiring just one thing. But it wasn’t my vote. (He didn’t need it.) He wanted me, and he wanted me to choose Him. It was a wooing for my own sake, not for a consolidation of power or prestige. To be sure there were extravagant promises made, but they weren’t the kind I expected: There would be trouble, hardships and pain. But there would also be deep joy, profound peace, and Him in the midst of it. Strangely appealing, these words did not ring with empty optimism, but with transcendent hope. I would have Him, His body, and His blood.
My “yes” to His proposal made me not a member of his base, but his beloved bride. Neither was I a byline, or an afterthought in an acceptance speech, but instead I was acknowledged before the Father. This was citizenship unearned, instituted through His marriage pledge and a sacred new birth. My birthright: Power in weakness, gain in forfeiture, life in the loss of it. My dowry: Unconditional love at its finest; forever kinship to Father and Bridegroom.
I stood in the voting booth, reminded of all I’d been granted, and all I so readily took for granted. The electing and becoming the elected; bought at price, extravagantly payed.
I grabbed an “I Voted” sticker on my way out, wearing it – this time – with a little more humility and little less pride.