Vote Your Privilege

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Odds are that you’re a U.S. citizen with many privileges, including the privilege to vote. (And if you’re Jewish, your privilege to vote also is a mandate to vote: under Jewish law, you have a duty to vote – and here’s my teshuvah proving it.)

There’s more I want to say about Election Day, but don’t ask me for endorsement or political analysis. However much others may ask it – after all, I dedicate my secular career to government service and my spiritual career to collective becoming – that’s precisely why I can’t honor the request. Judicial ethics rules bar me from endorsing candidates or causes. My roles as pulpit rabbi and movement leader oblige me to follow nonprofit tax rules against most overt politics. My spiritual covenant to be always radically welcoming means that I can’t conduct myself in ways that might make others feel unwelcome on the basis of politics or partisanship.

My words matter – and that’s the point. In any collective polity of interdependence, words matter. Choices matter. Votes matter.

Seen that way, restraints on what I can say publicly imply great privileges. I’m a citizen of the United States, attorney, judicial officer, rabbi and organizational leader. Each of these carries rights and duties – and tremendous privilege. Add my gender and ethnicity, and to some it may seem like I have it made in the shade.

So this year, I’ll cast my vote mindful of my privileges of birth, education, effort and public trust. This year I’ll cast my vote on behalf of everyone wrongly denied their right to vote in a nation that calls itself a democracy;

… the rule of law to which I dedicate my life;

… everyone whose color or creed makes them painfully suspect in a nation preaching equality but leaching hate;

… every immigrant who cast their lot with a nation of immigrants;

… everyone daring to smash a glass ceiling so others someday might take for granted an ever greater opportunity to dare and become;

… a politics worthy of everyone – whatever they look like, whomever they love, whether or however they pray.

And for things I can’t do, I rely on you – which is what democracy is all about. Make calls, knock on doors, walk feet to blister, get others to the polls – and don’t stop until every vote is cast and counted.

Voting is a privilege, and a duty. Vote your privilege. Vote. Pass it on.

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