When we were first dating, my wife, Kathryn, asked me what political party my parents belonged to. I paused. "The sisterhood and men's club?" I replied, referring to the groups at their synagogue. I don't recall them ever voting, though it's certainly possible they did: a rote practice, absent strong conviction.
They were the children of immigrants, who had fled their homelands seeking better opportunity for their family. The United States was to them what it has strived to be for millions of people since its founding: a safe haven for people fleeing violence, tyranny and persecution, a place where one could find belonging regardless of creed, color or profession. To them, being here was blessing enough.
So, I considered myself apolitical. I didn't see it as particularly relevant or important to engage with the mess of politics. Until I fell in love.
My wife has been my north star in so many ways. She is always right, with very few exceptions -- mostly relating to the inner workings of our appliances (and even there she's rapidly gaining knowledge and is on track to outpace me by 2022).
Early on, when Kathryn and her friends would talk politics, I would politely listen and consider it something of an intellectual indulgence. Then, one day, her friend Martin Sheen turned and asked my opinion. I responded with my typical line, "Oh, I'm not really political." Martin smiled and replied, "Do you breathe?"
He and Kathryn, and others like them, gently and patiently illuminated for me how every decision we make, every privilege we hold, every hardship we encounter, every service we partake in, every person we meet -- literally everything we do is political.
This realization is what has given my life meaning. Everything I do, I try to do in consideration of its impact and aim toward a greater good (with the possible exception of my dozens of hours researching the best refrigerators. That I do for me). So, when people tell me to "stay out of politics," I can only think, "but that's impossible."
Love, not hate, forged my political consciousness. And when I look at this political moment, when I see the divisive, mean-spirited, hateful rhetoric that appears
to be driving our politics, I can grow despondent. It can feel as though we've lost our way.
But when I look instead to the politics of everyday people, the way Kathryn and Martin and so many others taught me, I see something else. Amid a pandemic that has cost over 217,000 American lives
, amid unbelievable economic hardship
, and after nearly four years of increasingly partisan politics
, I still see people caring for one another.
I see people fighting for one another -- caretakers and first responders tending to the sick, young people leading the march
for the future of our planet, and people of every race, creed and age fighting for equality and racial justice
. I see more people than ever becoming politically engaged. And I can think of no greater form of optimism.
America has a flawed foundation. From the beginning, the words that formed this government were more aspirational than the actions of even the authors. It has only been through the incredible will of people fighting for what's right that we have inched closer to our ultimate ideals.
Somehow, through every misguided or shameful choice in our history, those most marginalized and oppressed have led the way toward progress. That takes an incredible amount of optimism, and I have no doubt they did it not just for themselves, but for those they loved -- and for the generations that were to follow them.
I can understand why people might want to steer clear of politics right now, to suggest, "I'm not political," and leave it at that. But to succumb to despair or exhaustion is to give up on the American project at the precise moment that it matters most. Something that gives me great hope is knowing that some of our most common ground as Americans is a shared desire to move away from such divided politics.
That's why I'm doing everything I can to get out the vote, and why, with a fundamental optimism, I'm supporting Joe Biden.
If you're conservative, you probably think Biden is too liberal. If you're liberal, you might think he's too conservative. That's the nature of these political divides. No matter what, if Biden is elected, it will be up to us as citizens to hold him accountable to enact the changes we believe are needed.
With Biden, I believe we can do that. While he may not be the perfect candidate -- and he'd likely be the first to admit that -- he is a decent man who wants to be of service to the public, unlike Donald Trump, who appears to want the public to be of service to him.
Biden is not a radical socialist. He's not dangerously conservative. You must know this. If anything, he plays to the center. That may not be exciting or enough for either side, but I think for now that's what we deserve -- so that we all may have some hope of meeting in the middle, too.
If you agree, then I ask you to get involved
for these final weeks and work toward
making make sure that we do not let hate and division triumph. Kathryn and I have been married for 40 years. You can imagine how often we've disagreed. What's kept us together hasn't been fighting -- it's been listening, learning from one another and having faith and optimism that we could get through anything together.
Now is the moment for us all to do the same: if we're going to fall in love with one another again, as Americans, then this is the time to show up, to commit and to make the right choice for our future.