I just turned 40. It seems rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things: a global pandemic, mounting civil unrest, and a landscape on fire; but, it's given me a moment to pause and reflect on the past four-decades. And, I can say with complete clarity, I have lived a life of wonderful privilege and fortune. In fact, the juxtaposition of my own experience against the backdrop of 2020 only underscores just how lucky I have been.
And, this being an election year, I have even more reason to think about my own fortune. Because, the truth is, no matter how the election goes, my life will probably remain relatively unchanged:
If we continue to quarantine and lock-down, I will be fine.
If kids have to school from home and need child care, I will be fine.
If gay people are refused service because of who they love, I will be fine.
If transgender people don't feel safe living their truth, I will be fine.
If women are unable to afford or obtain contraceptives, I will be fine.
If women are stripped of control over their own bodies, I will be fine.
If social security programs are cut, I will be fine.
If people lose their healthcare, I will be fine.
If people of color become disenfranchised, I will be fine.
If people seeking asylum are denied refuge, I will be fine.
If birthright citizenship is removed from our constitution, I will be fine.
If families are torn apart and locked in cages, I will be fine.
If minorities are profiled because of their race, I will be fine.
If nationalism is given room to grow, I will be fine.
If corporations don't pay people a living minimum wage, I will be fine.
I will be fine no matter what happens because of sheer luck - because of the family, class, race, and genes that I happen to be born into. I didn't earn any of this. But, I get the benefit of it every day - every time I leave the house.
So, when I vote, I am not voting for me - I am voting so that more people may be able to enjoy the freedom that I enjoy; I am voting so that more people have more rights; I am voting so that more people can feel the love and security and validation that I've felt my entire life.
I vote because "neutrality helps the oppressor", never the oppressed.
My life of privilege doesn't afford me a chance to be flippant with my vote - my life of privilege obligates me to vote for those whose voices may not be heard otherwise.
Neutrality Helps The Oppressor
The phrase, "neutrality helps the oppressor" comes from Elie Wiesel's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Here is a longer excerpt for said speech:
And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.