Can Compassion Exist in Voting?

Midterm Elections 2018

The other day, I went to visit one of my best friends who had moved to Atlanta. It was my first time there. The visit was lovely, but one of the highlights for me occurred in the airport drop-off lane.

Funny thing about the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport…the passenger pick-up and drop-off locations are one in the same. If you ask me, it’s a mess.

Traffic was bad the night my friend was dropping me off to catch my flight back to Houston. There were a few lanes closed in this weirdo drop-off/pick-up area, and the traffic control people were doing little to help the situation. People were trying to change lanes at inopportune moments, they were stopping in the middle of traffic to let someone in or out of their vehicles, and they had apparently forgotten how merging works when a lane is tapered off with traffic cones.

So there we were, attempting a merge. It’s pretty elementary stuff, isn’t it? One goes in from the left, one goes in from the right. No one’s cutting in. It’s just the nature of a merge.

Well, this wasn’t happening.

My friend had let two or three cars in from the other lane, which was already more lenient than I would have been. Finally deciding to push through, the guy in the other lane was not about to let it happen.

Petty. It’s so much easier to let someone in than to waste the energy on fighting against it.

Just let it happen, man. It’ll be over before you know it.

Tensions ran high with both sides refusing to back down. Windows were rolled down.

He yelled, “Let me through! You gotta wait! I gotta get over to that other lane! You need to get behind me!”

Interesting take on merging, I thought. Not sure how much time he thought he was saving himself with this exchange.

My friend, in her wisdom, fired back, “Oh, what? You’re the only guy in the world right now? You’re the only one with somewhere to be?”

The guy had nothing. He repeated some things he’d said earlier, and then eventually let us through.

Why did this line stick with me?

Because it was clear from the look on that man’s face that it had never occurred to him that no, he’s not the only guy in the world right now, let alone the only guy who matters, has things to do, or has somewhere to be.

There’s a word that means, “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” The word is “sonder,” and it might be a made-up word. It plays into the whole “Be nice to everyone because you never know what they’re going through” trope.

I actually had the pleasure of renewing my license the other day. The DMV is interesting because it’s one of those places that everyone has to come to at some point. It’s unavoidable. It’s one of those rare conjunctions where people from all walks of life, each with somewhere else they’d rather be, come for a similar purpose. The result is a true melting pot of people in your area, each generally commiserating over the fact that they are where they are at all, but each clearly coming from vastly different walks of life.

But the overall sentiment is that you’re in it together. I guess nothing brings people together quite like a common enemy – a long line and an inefficient process.

Looking at the people in the room, though, they all came from somewhere – a house, an apartment, an office, or a lunch meeting. They all have somewhere to head to afterwards. They’re all worried about having the appropriate documents in order for the DMV staff to review. They each have different things they need to address at the DMV.

…And this doesn’t even begin to speak to the millions of other factors that make up a human life and experience.

This is why empathy is so important.

We’ll never be able to comprehend what someone else is working with – be it their situation and circumstance, their mental and emotional states, the overall life they live, the people in their lives, their thoughts, beliefs, worries, or views, or even their zodiac signs, while we’re at it.

Along those same lines, we’ll never fully understand what motivates an individual to speak or behave a certain way, and we’ll never fully comprehend the reasons behind why something may be more or less significant to someone.

When it comes to elections, it’s truly fascinating to hear the reasons why some people vote the way they do. Some can be swayed to vote in an alternative direction, but that’s usually dependent on if you can tap into the “why” behind their original stance.

That said, a good general rule of thumb is that people vote on behalf of their wallets, their comfort (daily conveniences), and the wallets and comfort of their loved ones.

My point is this – people find it very difficult to consider everyone else in their actions. They’ll always look out for themselves first. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s a pretty reliable facet of humanity.

If something makes life harder, or even slightly less convenient for someone, they’ll usually opt against it, even if the long-term or broader implications of their minor inconvenience are much, much more significant and positive.

This leads me to the second Texas senatorial debate between Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

I won’t do a complete rundown of this debate as I did with the first one, but as I was watching this debate, one thing really stood out to me in a pretty jarring and obnoxious way.

Cruz likes his buzzwords. He should really look at a thesaurus the next time he speaks in public, but he overuses words like “extreme” and “striking.” He likes to say, “But notice that he didn’t dispute [one of the many accusations I’d inundated him with that may or may not have any merit within the mere 90-seconds he has to respond].”

But the thing Cruz kept repeating that made my head shake? Some version of,

“That’s not right for Texas.”

Well Ted, maybe what’s not right for Texas is right for the world and its future generations. And maybe “not right” isn’t so much “not right” as it is a matter of growing pains Texans might feel as our world evolves from one era to the next.

At the risk of sounding like Gellert Grindelwald, the infamous dark wizard and Albus Dumbledore’s friend-turned-foe from Harry Potter, sometimes sacrifice is required for the sake of the greater good.

I know – we elect officials based on who we want representing us, including our interests, goals, and protections. If we don’t look out for ourselves, who will? In Texas, specifically, we’re big on oil and gas. It’s a huge industry and many professionals working in Texas, either in the cities or in the more rural areas, are employed within the industry.

But if something is harmful to the planet, is it worth holding onto for the sake of Texas’ economy, so that some people can keep their jobs because they either cannot or will not transition to more sustainable and forward-moving industries? Where’s the long-term planning here?

This issue comes up every once in a while, usually when political candidates want to discuss job creation, economic growth, and global competitiveness in the energy sector.

Remember when Trump said he was going to bring back coal for the sake of the coal miners’ jobs, even though it’s a harmful and obsolete industry?

Think of it this way – imagine if we never transitioned from VHS to DVD because the VHS workers would lose their jobs if we did. While we’d be busy rewinding a VHS copy of Coming to America in our VCR so we don’t get fined by Blockbuster, the rest of the world would have already moved on to digital downloads and streams, granting them cheaper and faster access to their favorite movies and new releases without filling their landfills with black plastic and film reels.

That’s not what happened, though. The VHS industry has rightfully faded into obsolescence, having served its purpose until we found a better way to watch movies at home. #boybye

The Debate

Very quickly, I’ll give you a few examples of Senator Cruz stumping for Texas above all else. Maybe you like his approach. Maybe you think it’s short-sighted. All of these examples were taken from the first 15-ish minutes of the second debate.

On Political Bias –

“…And I know there are millions of Texans who are concerned about the political bias of big tech.”

I guess. “Millions” seems like a lot, but if he says so.

On Abortion –

“I would note, though, on the question of life…Congressman O’Rourke is at the extreme pro-abortion side…I’ve got to say, that’s not consistent with the views of the people of Texas.”

I’m not sure where Cruz is getting his information from here. I couldn’t find any supporting evidence of his claim that Texans don’t support abortion rights, but if he’s going off of hearsay, it seems as though he’s not speaking with all of “the people of Texas.” I did, however, find an article in the Houston Chronicle that claimed 62% of Texan voters support Roe v. Wade, according to a Quinnipiac poll. The poll also states that only 11% of Texan voters would like to outlaw abortion completely.

On Judge Appointments –

“On the question of judges…I was proud to help lead the effort to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the court [and] Brett Kavanaugh…Congressman O’Rourke would have voted against both of them, and he wants to, like Hillary Clinton, promise to appoint left-wing judicial activists to impose their own policy preferences from the bench, and I don’t think that’s what the people of Texas want. We want judges and justices who will follow the Constitution and will follow the law.

First of all, Brett Kavanaugh was one of the most unpopular justice appointments in recent history, so that might not be a selling point for Cruz. Secondly, (and I can’t believe I’m still saying this) it’s not about Hillary Clinton. Why are we still talking about her? Because Cruz is still trying to draw an unsavory comparison and association between Clinton and O’Rourke. Third, is Cruz implying that the right doesn’t appoint right-leaning judges to the court to do the exact same thing that he’s accusing O’Rourke (and Hillary Clinton) of wanting to do for the left? As a self-proclaimed Constitutionalist, Cruz claims he favors non-biased judges who do not support one party’s policies over the others. However, on the matter of following the Constitution, Cruz has already flip-flopped on his stance regarding the constitutionality of birth-right citizenship after President Trump implied he could do away with it with an executive order.

More on Abortion –

When asked, “In your 60-second rebuttal, what should abortion law in Texas look like?”

…He never answers the question. He just reiterated some of his earlier points and the fact that Beto didn’t dispute them as clearly as he would have wanted him to in the mere 90 seconds he had been allotted for a response. It’s a common tactic – to throw so many accusations and points out that the other side is literally unable to address each point in the time given on top of actually giving their own response to the question.

Maybe it’s a personal pet peeve of mine, but while I don’t claim to have the answers to every issue I recognize, I’d like to at least know that my elected officials have a plan of tackling the issue, whether I agree with it or not. If you complain about something, ask yourself what you’d like to see in its place.

On Climate Change –

“Far too many Democrats approach this issue, not as a matter of science…but as a matter of government power. Congressman O’Rourke cast some votes that I think are really harmful to the people of Texas. For example, [he] voted in favor of a $10 tax on every barrel of oil produced in the state of Texas. That would have been absolutely devastating to the state of Texas…That would hurt the people of Texas…There are millions of jobs that depend on a robust oil and gas sector, and [his] record voting against Texas oil and gas, voting against energy – that hurts the economy, that hurts jobs. That’s not right for Texas.”

Beto’s response:

“The climate is changing…we should be able to listen to the scientists…we still have time but the window is closing to get this right. If we’re going to make our commitment to the generations that follow, and not just think about the next election or our political career or pursuit of the White House, then we can make the right decision. We can support Texas being a proud energy leader in oil and gas, but also in renewable energy.”

The follow-up question for Cruz:

“Mr. Cruz, question is – does ExxonMobil [who has admitted that climate change should be addressed within the oil and gas industry] have it wrong here?”

And the response:

“[Congressman O’Rourke] didn’t just vote for a $10 a barrel tax on oil.  He’s also voted for aggressive regulations of fracking, aggressive regulations of exporting liquefied natural gas; he’s a prominent supporter of President Obama’s Paris Climate Deal, which would have killed thousands of jobs in the state of Texas. That’s not good for Texas, and it’s an example of over and over again, Congressman O’Rourke sides with liberal extremists on the national level instead of the people of Texas, instead of jobs of Texas.

Here again, he didn’t answer the question. He used buzzwords like “extreme” and “extremists,” and linked Beto to Obama and the Paris Climate Deal (which was actually very popular across the country). But within less than three minutes of speaking, notice how many times Cruz said the word “Texas.” In the quotes that I selected, he said it ten times. Apparently, Texans and their jobs are more important than being a global good sport in the fight against climate change, even though the majority of Americans, Texans included, would like to see transitions to more sustainable energy sources. Cruz speaks of restricting fracking like it’s a bad thing, even though fracking is an extremely controversial process with significant environmental concerns surrounding it.

Texas First?

Ted Cruz’s focus on Texans and their jobs might be what some people are looking for. It falls in line with Trump’s “America First” campaign, even if elevating America disrupts the global balance. Maybe you agree with this line of thinking, which is obviously your own prerogative, but maybe you’re worried about the future of your planet, your government institutions, and the world you leave for your children and grandchildren to contend with.

The world is in transition. We have the opportunity to move it forward or to attempt to hold it right where it is for as long as we can. This goes beyond climate change and social issues. It speaks to the overall advancement of the human race.

It may be uncomfortable at first. We might need to sacrifice taking an F550 truck on our daily commute to work, or maybe we’ll have to take shorter showers. These are cultural shifts more than anything, likened to the guy who’s the most fun at parties deciding to go sober for his health. These are small potatoes that can make a huge impact on our future, one way or the other.

I’m not diminishing the importance of people’s jobs and lifestyles. That said, industries come and go all the time. We have to adjust and adapt to the waves.

I’m not saying not to vote in your own best interest. I am, however, asking you to be considerate of the needs of others as best you can, too.

I am saying to please think about the bigger picture when you go out to vote tomorrow. Hopefully, like the guy in the Atlanta airport’s pick-up/drop-off lane, we can keep in mind the fact that we’re all here trying to coexist with one another. There are actually things that are more important than our personal bank accounts, and we’re all better off when we raise each other up.

Go vote. The midterms matter.

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