A Single Vote

By Elizabeth Nguyen

Bends the Arc Toward Justice...

by Rev. Allison Palm

When my husband and I moved to New Hampshire this past summer, we deliberately didn't get a landline. We knew our out-of-state cell phone numbers would be sufficient for our needs – and would keep us safe from the barrage of phone calls we had heard were a part of living in this first in the nation primary state.

Without a landline or a TV, in many ways we've been sheltered from the primary craziness. Add to that the fact that we are millennials and have no voting record in the primary, and there's been no reason for any campaign to court us. I've witnessed many a group of door knockers pass us by, moving on to more likely targets.

In other ways, it's impossible to get away from the primary. New Hampshire (NH) Public Radio (NHPR) seems unaware some days that there is anything else happening in the world, and the internet creepily knows we are in NH and presents campaign ads whenever it gets the chance.

There is no missing the fact that, now that Iowa is over, all eyes are on the New Hampshire primary this week.

What's been most interesting for me is to see how seriously folks in New Hampshire take this responsibility of being among the first to vote. I know that there are folks in the congregation I serve that make a point of seeing every candidate in person so they can make an informed decision next Tuesday. There is a certain pride in being one of the first, and they take that role very seriously.

Particularly as I've watched folks who are so deeply engaged in this process, I've felt some guilt at being a step removed from it all. I haven't gone to see a single candidate, and I've felt grateful each time I've seen those door knocking groups pass us by. After all, what would I tell them? That I can't imagine any candidate making a difference in a political system as corrupt as it feels like ours has become? That there are days when I've lost all hope that our government will be a force for making positive change in our world?

In college, I was fascinated by politics. I followed little local elections in states I had never been to. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on faith and politics in the United States. Eight years ago, I even traveled up to New Hampshire from Boston on primary day to canvass.

At some point, this changed. No matter who was in power, it seemed that our government was more often an oppressor than a liberator. I made a deliberate decision not to seek work in the political realm, feeling I could make more of a difference trying to change the system from the outside. I stopped following campaigns and started following protest movements instead. Like many in my generation, I became disillusioned. I lost faith in our political system.

Ironically, the one thing I haven't lost faith in is voting. I can't help but credit my Unitarian Universalist upbringing for that.

As Unitarian Universalists, we put our faith in the democratic process, that fragile, yet powerful way of making decisions. Fragile, because it depends on us fallible humans to make decisions. Powerful, because it depends on the will of the people to get things done.

I'll never forget the rush of empowerment I felt the first time I went into one of those little makeshift booths and cast my vote when I was 18. Three years later, I attended my first Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly and felt that same rush each time I lifted my voting card--even for those votes that were mostly symbolic.

For me, voting is always an act of faith. We cannot know if our vote will make a difference. We cannot know if who or what we are voting for will change our world for the better. All we can do is accept the great privilege and responsibility of being a part of the democratic process, and take a leap of faith.

So I will be voting in the primary on Tuesday, if for no other reason than to feel the rush that I still feel each time I cast a vote. If for no other reason than that my faith tells me to affirm and promote the democratic process. If for no other reason than that I do believe, despite it all, that the arc of our universe is in fact bending towards justice, and you never know when a single vote might just help it bend a little further.

Rev. Allison Palm is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, a Minnesota native and a young adult. She currently serves as Minister of the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Nashua, NH.

money out of politics

money out of politics