Religion

Will Obama Leave Me Out?

Congrats to all fellow Obama supporters, and thanks for helping stop bigotry in Minnesota.

In his victory speech President Obama said:

…I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where [sic] you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

This sounds all inclusive: a statement of total equality.

But it isn’t.

Photo by Andrew Aliferis

In listing virtually every sort of minority that exists, President Obama conspicuously left out religious minorities. This is not a mistake; it echoes his words at his 2009 Inauguration. He took pains to call out all other disadvantaged groups, even many that normally get no attention at all. But still no love for minority religions and atheists.

Our president then invoked God and gave God’s blessing to all of us, whether we follow that deity or not.

His supporters’ cheers rose louder—this was the climax. The crowd didn’t notice that my people were left out, or they didn’t care.

It’s risky for an American politician to help non-Christians. I still had high hopes. Four years ago President Obama had to think carefully about his political future; now, as a second term president, he has a freer rein. He can choose to reach much further.

I’d like that.

I would like my President, for whose election I worked tirelessly, to remember that there are many gods blessing America—and that there may be no gods at all.

I would like my President Elect to reach out and help disadvantaged Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Polytheists, Hindus, and the non-religious in the same way he wishes to help gays, lesbians, hispanics, blacks, and all the other groups he took the time to call out.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I campaigned for him, no matter how much he needed my vote in undecided Wisconsin, he is not likely to fulfill that wish.

President Obama is not the candidate of religious freedom. Everything that gays and lesbians needed before Obama, non-Christians need still.

Consistent with my stated policy on voting, I voted for him anyway—and I would do it again if he could run for a third term.

But do you think a president will ever stand up up for my faith?

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Spotlight

How to Vote If Both Candidates Suck

Photo by Elena Lagaria

Here’s how I vote.

I don’t get invested in the candidates, not personally. And neither should you.

Some people view their vote as an expression of their conscience. If they can’t trust either main candidate, they can’t stand voting for them. They need to be passionate about a candidate, or bust. That leads to bad decision making.

Elections are not like dating. Your candidate will not love you back. Maybe in some abstract sense they love their supporters, but they don’t care about you personally, or your neighborhood.

Accepting this makes voting easier. Your candidate breaks a promise, has an affair or makes deals with the other side; you shrug. We knew we couldn’t trust them. Politics isn’t about trust. It’s a business proposition.

The candidates may lie, but there are reliable indicators of how they’ll act on your issues. They’ll make some decisions that hurt you, and some that will help you. And you can vote to maximize the good-for-you decisions.

How to Tell

The only way to maximize your gain is to be informed. Sometimes that seems hard. Where do you get reliable information about the candidates? Isn’t it all biased?

The news is. But it’s actually pretty easy to figure out what a candidate’s behavior is on an issue. They each have a voting record that shows how they’ve acted time and time again. This is a very reliable predictor of what they’ll do next.

They also have plans on certain issues published in black and white. They may not live up to them 100% but there are a lot of indicators there in how they’d like to run things.

For instance, let’s look at the economy. The economy affects everyone. But it’s frustrating, for two reasons:

  • Both candidates say similar things
  • Neither candidate gets very specific

If you’re nodding your head, you may have listened to too many soundbites. The candidates are worlds apart on the economy.

Here’s how.

When Should You Vote For Romney?

Romney’s plan to fix the economy involves tax cuts. He wants to give us all a 20% tax break across the board, which sounds pretty good, except he plans to offset it by getting rid of certain deductions that most of us currently take.

This involves algebra, folks.

Fortunately Marcus Sanborn has laid the data out in a simple chart. Go and look up your income bracket. The less money you make, the more Romney hurts you. Look for yourself, but basically:

If you make less than $200,000 per year, Romney wants to raise your taxes.

That doesn’t sound like what he says on TV, but that’s why we look at his actual tax plan and not his jingle.

So, if you make $200,000 or more, Romney might maximize your net gain, but with one caveat: as the same article points out, eliminating those deductions won’t actually offset the tax cut, so Romney will bankrupt the US government.

So if you make over $200,000 and you don’t want the American economy to recover, then you should vote for Romney. Otherwise vote for Obama.

Voting By the Issues

Most of us have certain issues we care about. It’s not just the tax rate. If you’re looking to maximize your personal gain, you need to choose two or three key issues you care about the most. Then vote for the candidate who does best on those issues. Here are some suggestions.

If you’re unemployed—

Unemployment has gone down under Obama; Romney’s approach to unemployment and the economy is so scattered that it cost him The Economist’s nomination. If you’re unemployed, vote for Obama.

If you love the environment—

Obama has been mediocre on the environment; Romney would be a swing back to Bush era policies. If you love the environment, I suggest Obama.

If you’re Christian—

If you’re Christian, both candidates have your back. This is a non-issue.

If you aren’t Christian—

Romney repeatedly changes his stances to please extreme conservatives who don’t want you to practice your religion (or lack of religion, atheists). Obama is uncomfortably close to some of these same conservatives, but has never voted against religious freedom. Vote for Obama.

About abortion—

Neither candidate will crusade for women’s right to choose. Romney actively crusades against that right. If you are pro-life, stop reading this blog (forever, thanks) and then go vote for Romney. If you’re pro-choice, you do the least harm to yourself and womankind by voting for Obama.

If you’re gay or trans—

You already know the answer to this. If you, your child, a friend, or anyone you love is gay or trans, neither candidate is great on key issues affecting you but Obama is better, and will at least give you a lot of moral support while not actually fighting for you. Grudgingly vote for Obama.

These are just a few of the issues. To learn more about how candidates will actually vote on your issues, check out iSideWith.

What About the Other Guy?

Voting this way is relaxing. In exchange for fifteen minutes of my life spent reading a few websites, I can sit back and let all the election hub-bub pass me by, confident that my vote will actually contribute to my wellbeing.

However.

This also means I won’t vote for a third party candidate in a high level election. I know they would lose, so my net gain would be zero. (Don’t give me the 5% talk; when we have a runoff election system I will be voting third, fourth and fifth party like crazy. That’s a change that no third party candidate can offer right now.)

Again, a vote is not a moral statement on abstract principles. It is a small token you get to spend in a very large machine to try to make it do what you want, some of the time. That’s a lot less powerful than we wish it would be, yet still one of the most powerful things you will ever hold.

A vote is a tiny slice of kingship.

You can be cynical about politics, but refusing to vote (or voting for someone guaranteed to lose) is an unintelligent decision. It’s a decision to do active harm. If a bus crashes and you can save only one person, save one person. Don’t just walk away cursing the unfair universe. Save that shit for happy hour.

My Boy

I don’t really think both candidates suck. I actually think Obama is a pretty swell candidate. That’s because of how I vote. (Plus Barack reads this blog religiously, and I’d hate to offend a friend.) It’s a low-stress way of voting. It makes election night easier, and the hangover isn’t as bad if your candidate loses.

Split the difference between cynicism and zeal. Vote to maximize your gain. Which, unless you are a Baptist misogynist with a $200,000 salary, means vote for Obama.

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Spotlight

The Straight Man’s Vote

Photo by Philippe Leroyer

One decision can change history.

Certain moments make such thorough, such permanent change that later generations can’t imagine what it was like before.

Growing up in a mixed-race school in the 1980s, I didn’t understand what my teachers meant by segregation. My friends and I looked at each other—different drinking fountains? Different schools? We couldn’t even form questions from our confusion.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not fix racism. But it changed the environment where prejudice lives. Once a Grendel, roaming free and preying at will, racism became the Chupacabra. It must hide, it is chased, it is reviled.

Children grow up differently.

Today we have a similar decision to make. Homosexuals and the gender-queer are mistreated in our society. It’s considered okay. People who never say nigger will laugh as they say faggot.

And worse—far worse—are the ones who never say faggot but say, “I don’t have anything against them, just why do they have to be so public?”

Inequality is being legislated, and that is a public issue. It’s hard to imagine any other group being told they can’t marry. What if Muslims or Hispanics were denied this basic right?

Could you ignore that?

I’m addressing the straight people. I’m one myself. And here’s the thing: We’re the ones who need to fight this battle. 

By the numbers, the LGBTQ community will never win a majority vote. Their ability to receive equal rights depends entirely on your, on our, willingness to stand up.

African Americans didn’t pass the Civil Rights Act. Not alone. After so much bravery and passion from black activists, a room full of white congressmen had to cast their votes. 70% decided that they would do what was right.

That’s what I hope you will do.

If you live in one of four states—Maine, Maryland, Minnesota or Washington—you get to vote on a ballot measure about same-sex marriage. This happens November 6. If you don’t vote, you have voted. You have voted for bigotry.

I have many Minnesota readers. In Minnesota, I ask you to support gay rights by voting NO on the Marriage Amendment. Tell your friends to vote no, too. And argue with your bigoted friends, thoughtfully, in front of your undecided friends.

(For info on the other three states, see WA, MD, and ME. To see where your state stands, click here.)

We shouldn’t have to vote on whether someone is allowed equal rights. It should be a given. But when these ballots are counted, one of two things will happen:

If there aren’t enough brave straight people, it will be business-as-usual for a nation ruled by Puritans. That big train called fear, xenophobia and bigotry can just keep steaming forward.

But—

If we all vote and tell our friends to vote, maybe this day will confuse future schoolchildren. Maybe we’ll have something worth remembering.

Please vote in support of queer rights.

I’m a writer. I’m making a novella about summertime, magic, happy corn, sad farmers, and desperate fucking. Check out a sneak preview and a chance at some advance perks.

For my presidential recommendations, go here

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