We live in interesting times… Elections are strange things …
When I was a student at York University, I ran for student government. We put up posters, held debates, canvassed. I was a one-issue candidate. I was advocating for the rights of fraternities and sororities, which, at the time, were banned at York University. In the end, I won my seat through acclimation. My opponent withdrew. I spent the year being harassed and criticized for not representing the interests of all students at York. Go figure! Not long afterward, I voted in my first Canadian election.
Many years later, while living in Detroit, I became a U.S. citizen and subsequently have voted in local and national U.S. elections. Like so many on either side of the border, I followed the U.S. election closely. I cast my ballot early, to make sure I could fulfil my civic right and responsibility.
We Jews have not always enjoyed the right to vote. In the United States, for example, Jews were only permitted to vote beginning in 1828; and in England in 1858. We fought hard to be seen as part of the social and political fabric of wherever we lived. I have been proud to cast ballots in several elections on both sides of the border. I really do believe that, unless you participate in the electoral process, you do not have a right to critique those elected.
Elections are often fought over issues, other times over philosophy. But the results of this year’s U.S. election clearly indicate that a huge number of people did not care about the issues and did not care about who the candidates were, but felt deeply that the status quo in Washington was broken and no longer represented their interests.
Eight years after the economic meltdown brought on, primarily, by poor regulation of the financial industry, millions of Americans are still suffering the loss of their pensions or the decimation of the value of their homes. The polls say more voted – in large measure – against the current system than for a particular candidate. After decades of industrial decline, with nothing to replace it, people are frustrated and angry, many unable to support their families.
The next few years will be filled with challenges. The leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism recently wrote: “… Abraham went out into a place of great uncertainty, we now find ourselves in an unanticipated time and place. But we know, like Abraham, that our faith and enduring values will be a strong foundation as we move forward. We love the stranger, feed the hungry and care for the orphan and the widow.”
While we do not live in the United States, what happens there has a direct and dramatic effect on our lives. I pray that our leaders have the wisdom to guide us through what will undoubtedly be challenging times.