The Story of this Election, from the Narrow Vantage Point of my own Facebook Feed
(I write this from the end of a long line at my Ward 1, Washington, DC polling place. It's just above freezing, and hundreds of diverse Washingtonians are waiting to cast a vote in a city whose citizens are often forgotten.)
Yesterday, Jonah wrote about his disappointment that neither Obama nor Romney's campaigns really gave the American people a consistent, epic story to consider.
What I realized as I scrolled through my own Facebook feed this morning was that the American people don't need to be spoon-fed a story. If our candidates won’t give us epic stories to hold, shape, and share, we turn back to our foundational myths or create new stories ourselves.
This morning, the clear story that was breaking through my feed (admittedly a limited sample!) was simple and transformative. And it was bigger than these two candidates.
My Facebook friends are mostly DC and Maryland residents. Two places where it's very easy to argue and to believe that voting is a waste of time. In DC, we don't have a vote in Congress. And in Maryland, you're safely in a blue state so unless you care about ballot initiatives and local races, you don't really have to go vote.
But what rang clear in my feed this morning — in my friends' own words — was our shared, non-partisan, foundational myth about representative democracy. Here's how they put it.
"Vote. Vote for the President. Vote for Romney. Vote against either of them. If you don't like either of them, go to your polling place and cast an empty ballot. Let's increase the voter turnout and let that be the legacy of the 2012 election.”
-- Bobby, DC voter. We taught 11th graders together in a DC Charter school.
“Considering it's Election Day, I will use this opportunity to share my one "political" comment of the year...One of the best and worst things about this nation is the power to have our voices heard. Remember respect and remember that even if your candidate doesn't win, at least you had the ability to choose. That is all, that is all...”
-- Aimee, MD voter, teacher. I met her in middle school at an ice cream social after a chorus concert.
“I know most of you are tired of the political dialogue and ready for this day to be over, but in all seriousness -- Please get out there and vote today! We are truly fortunate to live in a country where we have the power to choose who our leaders and representatives will be. As we learned from the Arab Spring and countless other movements, some people literally have to die for the right that we are lucky enough to have been born with.”
-- Bianca, CT voter, e-communications specialist. We met doing plays together in high school.
“Despite the fact that campaign season seems to bring out the worst in Americans (I know that I am guilty sometimes), the fact that we legally get to overthrow the government every 2-6 years is the absolute best thing about America (excepting only baseball, hush puppies, and Dogfish Head beer). Here's to Election Day and earning the right to complain about the government for the next two years.”
-- David, MD voter, tenor & librarian. We’ve been singing together in choirs large and small for more than 10 years.
“Thankful we get to live in a country where we have the right to choose. Please exercise that right. You are making decisions that will affect us for the next 4 years and beyond.”
-- Becky, MD voter, nurse. One of my best friends from high school. Met in 6th grade at girl scout camp.
“I love little more than exercising my right to vote. And doing it while holding my little guy and knowing I am voting for the world I want for him? That just makes it even better.”
-- Allie, MD voter, high school guidance counselor. Best friend of 20-some years.
I share Jonah's dismay that the 2012 election cycle offered little in the way of iconic American narratives. But, as my Facebook feed reminds me, when mythic American stories are in short supply from our leaders, we write them ourselves.