The election is over, my man didn’t win. I liked John Kerry and I was ready to give him a shot for four years to see what he’d offer us. But, unlike some liberals, I’m not announcing my plans to move to Canada or predicting the end of the universe as we know it. George Bush strikes me as a likeable, nice fellow, even if I strenuously disagree with many of his policies.
But I am depressed after the election. It’s not over the leader we chose, but over why, apparently, he was chosen. In exit polls, more people said they were concerned about “moral values” than were concerned about the economy or terrorism. Lest anyone think I am opposed to moral values, let me reassure you. I like values just fine and I think they compose the backbone of a strong society.
What I despair over is conservative control over what is defined as values. One of the big surprises of the election was the Republican ability to match the Democrats in new registered voters. People were anxious to support George W. Bush for the first time. The question is, why? I’m sure there are a lot of reasons, but if the exit polls are right, moral values is a big one. I doubt people who voted for Bush were thinking, “I’m thrilled with how Iraq is going, or I love where unemployment is at.” They connected with him on the “value” issue.
So what does that mean? It means stem cell research, abortion, same sex marriage, and of course, religion. Perhaps this is why Utah Mormons overwhelmingly supported Bush again this year. What doesn’t it mean? Apparently morality has little to do with tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, 2,200 dead American soldiers, and tax cuts for the wealthy. (Within a few months, the number of dead soldiers will exceed the number of people killed on 9/11.) I’m not sure how or when it happened (and I don’t really care, frankly) but I’m utterly at a loss as to why conservatives get to decide what values are in America. Values don’t encompass helping the poor among conservatives, or fighting AIDS in Africa in a meaningful way. Yes, I know we gave some money, but to steal Bill Maher’s analogy, we’re like the millionaire who flips a quarter, or when we’re feeling really generous, a dollar, to the homeless guy and then thinks we made a real difference. We have the ability in this country to alleviate much of the suffering around the world, but we don’t. We’d rather drive tanks to work, shop with forklifts at Costco, watch TV on screens the size of movie theatres, and do whatever we want, whenever we want, the cost be damned. Apparently that’s what freedom means these days. We expletive and moan at paying $2 a gallon in gas to drive to the restaurant, but $5 for the valet is ok, and hey, who doesn’t pay $13 for a pear and gorgonzola salad?
What I’m suggesting is that our values are seriously screwed up in this country. Our outrage is reserved for Janet Jackson’s boob during the Super Bowl (where innocent children could’ve been watching!!!), for Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity, and for John Kerry’s “questionable” war record. We care about things that don’t matter and ignore the things that do. I hope we can stand up and let people know that we’re moral people, and that we stand for values, but that those values count. Sure, abortion’s an important moral issue, but if you’ve got such a myopic view that it’s what determines your vote, you’ve got no business calling yourself a person with values. What would Jesus do has to mean more than walking out of a movie where someone has the nerve to take their clothes off. We’ve got to stop letting conservatives control the discourse and tell us what counts and what doesn’t on the value-o-meter. Dying children in Africa matters. Genocide in Sudan matters. Iraqi civilians aren’t just collateral damage. What can we do to let our fellow Latter-day Saints know how we feel? What can we do to help combat this conservative control?