Rainbow flag through curtain

It heartened me that this country voted from a place of compassion this last election. Obama’s agenda leans more toward helping those in need of help than Romney’s did, marriage equality made inroads, and even the legalization of marijuana by Colorado and Washington strikes me as a more compassionate stance than prohibition.

By compassion I do not mean pity, but rather the ability to see myself in someone else’s place, or to see the ways in which we as humans are alike. Marriage equality is perhaps the easiest issue to see in terms of compassion. To judge another couple’s love and commitment as less than someone else’s purely on the basis of the genders of the partners is clearly not a compassionate stance. I’m heartened that the pendulum in this country seems to be moving toward the recognition that love is love, and that the only people who should be deciding on the validity of a commitment are the people who are making that commitment to each other.

I certainly sympathize with people who want to reduce the size of the federal government, but I don’t think we should be taking away the safety nets for people with disabilities, people mired in poverty, or the elderly. Many people argue that churches and private charities should pay for such programs, but I think that we as a country should be taking care of each other. There’s a long tradition of rugged individualism in the United States, but there’s an equally strong tradition of coming together as communities in order to help each other. Think of traditional barn-raising parties, or the way people unite after natural disasters. We can’t afford to let people fall through the cracks—the future needs all the creative energies of all of us. If we let a family continue in homelessness when a year’s worth of help could get them back on their feet, we risk losing the contributions of every member of that family for even longer than that year.

Less obviously an issue of compassion, the legalization of marijuana is nevertheless a compassionate act. It’s clearly not a drug on the same level of danger as meth or cocaine or opiates, and yet the laws have treated it as if it were. It’s a compassionate act to see people who use it as no different from those who relax with a glass of wine or a beer. And it’s better to regulate it and tax it than it is to criminalize it and spend resources funneling people through the court systems for possession.

There’s been a lot of post-election analysis of how and why the Republican party did not win the presidency, but it seems one needs to look no further than the audiences at the two parties’ events. The Republican audiences were overwhelmingly white. The Democratic ones had people with every shade of skin color. The number of openly gay people in the Democratic party is higher. Inclusiveness won over exclusiveness in this election.

I understand that Republicans fear our economy will suffer under Obama. But the analysis I’ve heard suggests that the economy would likely improve no matter who had won the White House. It will improve faster if the government works toward building employment rather than just watching from the sidelines as natural market forces move us in that direction (or not). We who have jobs and comfort need to show the compassionate understanding that the unemployed want to work, and we need to exert our political will to make that happen.

Unfortunately, some people out there opposed Obama out of racism rather than rationalism. Fortunately, the country rejected that stance and recognized instead that the man stands for a more compassionate world view.

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5 thoughts on “Voting for Compassion”

  1. A few years ago they opened a new courthouse near our house, and my husband, with his insatiable curiosity, gave himself a tour. He sat in one of the courtrooms for a little while. As we were discussing the recent election, he commented how many people were brought in, in chains no less, and sent to jail, for no greater crime than possessing marijuana. It does seem like a huge injustice, and I’m glad to see that the tide is beginning to turn.

  2. Beautifully stated, Laura! I too felt great relief that “compassion” won this term. And, here, here, to diversity and individuality; isn’t that what makes life more interesting?

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