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Our Peaceful Means to Settle Disputes

October 22, 2010

I have gotten into just one real argument about this election. I was having breakfast at the Washington DC International Youth Hostel and two strangers sat down to eat and chat. After some pleasantries the talk turned to politics and the man and woman started building on each other about how unfair it is that liberals are helping homeless people vote, helping them register, giving them rides to the polls. Outrageous! Apparently there was something in the news about it.

I watched them reinforce each other’s outrage until I just had to ask, “Why is it not okay to help every American vote?”

The arguments came back sharply about how “those people” were uneducated and lazy and unpatriotic. “Well any respectable black person should at least have a driver’s license,” one of them said. “It should be illegal for those people to vote,” was another comment.

To me these were fightin’ words. I pretty-much shouted that there is just one basic requirement for voting. One. Being American. You are totally allowed to be homeless, uneducated, lazy, black, and unrespectable…..and you are still allowed to vote. In fact I believe we especially need to hear from “those people.”

It turned into a thing. Strangers gathered around to watch. I had been triggered, as they say.

Here’s why. I’m all about arguing. I’m all about different views and opinions. Our disagreements have helped make America great. Yet when push comes to shove – before it turns into a fistfight – we vote. Everyone gets a say. Majority rules.

One thing that holds any group together is a way to settle conflicts by peaceful means. Here in the U.S., this is our peaceful means: Every few years we vote. Everyone gets a say. Majority rules. Of course there are many nuances but this is the basic way that we settle big disputes in America.

I have no tolerance for voter suppression. No tolerance for my fellow hostellers in that moment. To me voter suppression is unpatriotic. It’s not putting America first. It is showing allegiance to your cause more than allegiance to your country. It’s trashing our peaceful means to get your own way.

I think it’s better to lose than to cheat. In sports, following rules and accepting outcomes is how we show our respect for the game.

I don’t expect these posts to be so opinionated every time. It’s just the timing. As Americans we are about to make a big group decision and everyone should have a say.

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