1980-1988 – My mom becomes passionately involved in the right to life movement, so I also become passionately involved in the right to life movement. I take pictures of mutilated embryonic corpses to my fourth grade class. I can identify the differences between a D&C, a saline, and a suction aspiration abortion before I know what an IUD or condom look like. I’m not old enough to vote, but I can march on Washington, D.C. with my “Choose Abstinence” sign. I know nothing about what the candidates believe about foreign policy, economics, or health care, but I know that we vote pro-life, so we like the Republican candidate.
1992 – I’m 18, a freshman in college, and voting for the first time. I find that I don’t agree with a lot of the policies of the Republican Party, but I can’t bring myself to ignore the babies. I cast my ballot and know that even though the man that I’m voting for probably won’t win the election, I can sleep with a clear conscience knowing that some convictions are more important than others. A few weeks later, I pray that you can’t get pregnant dry humping a guy in the backseat of his car because I’m sure as hell not ready to be a mother.
1996 – I’m just a few months away from my wedding and my almost-husband is far more conservative than I am. I believe that I should be submissive to him, and somehow in my mind, this means agreeing with him politically. The nagging doubts that whispered in the back of my mind four years earlier have moved to the front and are positively screaming at me. I don’t know it yet, but in the next year, my best friend will come out to me and one of my co-workers will require a late-term abortion. I vote for the candidate on the right and pray that he doesn’t win. I feel like a traitor to everyone.
2000 – I’m not registered to vote, even though we moved here two years earlier. I know this is going to be a close race, but I can’t stand the thought of voting for the guy I’m “supposed to” support and I can’t bring myself to vote against my family, so I do nothing. The election drags on for weeks. A self-proclaimed prophet says that we’re to pray for “God’s person” to win the election, and my Bible study leader takes that to mean that we’re to pray for the Republican candidate to win. I want to say something about how the Bible tells us that no matter WHO wins, it’s “God’s person,” but instead I take my son into another room to nurse him and try to escape the conflict in my heart.
2004 – America is involved in two wars, Abu Ghraib has come to light with barely a peep from the Christian right, and our fourth pregnancy had been greeted with, “Congratulations…I guess,” from a family member. I still consider myself pro-life, so I’m registered as a Republican, but the pro-life movement doesn’t seem to be all that concerned with the lives of Afghan citizens, Iraqi prisoners, or fourth babies born into low-income families. For the first time, I break from my family and vote for the Democratic candidate. I’m not tremendously excited about him, but it feels good to recognize that pro-life can also include a discussion about how we deal with the dignity of all people, not just the unborn.
2008 – My husband and I are fully “in the tank” for Obama. I have embraced my liberal side, complete with yard signs, carved pumpkins, and unending political updates to Facebook. I kind of enjoy pissing off my brother-in-law by posting provocative articles, so I do it regularly. In rejecting one form of fundamentalism, I become the mirror image of that which I hate. My desire for a more nuanced discussion about politics gets lost in waves of nationalism and patriotism. I stay up on election night with my husband and am excited to be alive in a time when our children can see a person of color be elected as president, but it is an excitement tinged with smugness, which taints it.
2012 – I am still liberal, perhaps even more liberal than I was four years ago, but I am tired of the fighting. I’m tired of statements of “how can you be a Christian and vote for X.” I’m tired of fear and anger being the biggest motivators. The past four years have brought so much change to my life, but so much more hope. Not hope in politics or right beliefs, but in how we can relate to one another in our differences. I have hope that we can choose kindness even in disagreement. I have hope that we can find peace even when there is uncertainty. I have hope that we can love one another with a love that is bigger than our fears. This is a hope that brings change, and it begins with me.