Vote According to your Values This Election Day

Vote According to your Values This Election Day November 4, 2018

Review Your Values.

Vote according to your values. So you better make damn sure you know what your values are.  Humans are not perfect machines.  We don’t always act according to our own best interests and best selves.  This is something we have to work at. Pagans often spend a fair amount of time aligning themselves with the gods and spirits: maybe modeling behavior by emulating Freyja’s love, or speaking truth in honor of the Morrigan. These are good things and a great start toward knowing what your personal values are, but it’s only a step and sometimes knowing that Freyja encourages you to love isn’t going to help you decide if you want your city to sell a parcel of land to developers.

A United States flag blowing in the wind backlit by the sun in a blue sky.
CC BY-SA 2.0: Flickr User jnn1776 US Flag https://www.flickr.com/photos/54637956@N02/5061049945

Your Values are not Always Your Own.

As a society we do not emphasize personal values. In standard Western society we have the culture gifted to us by Christianity. It has ethics that are mostly based on what not to do.  This is not entirely the case, certainly Jesus preaches a number of positive things you should do, like love your neighbor. But very often there’s a long list of things you shouldn’t do.  Things like don’t have sex with anyone but your spouse, don’t have sex before marriage, don’t be gay, don’t kill, don’t, don’t judge.  I’m not saying these things are inherently bad, though I disagree with a number of them. Values are about what you should do. Making decisions based on a list of things you want to do is better. Think about it.  Don’t Kill is a very different beast than Honor Life.

Another large influence on modern Western culture is media and advertising. We all have commercial jingles that live in our brains. Children under 5 can often identify over one hundred different brands.  Brands are psychology and culture. There are values underlying every brand. When you’re branded, those values become your own. Sometimes that can be a good thing.  One of Apple’s brand values is creativity. You see that in their advertising and products. But the thing is, we don’t control those values, corporations do.  You’ve been bombarded by their values for years at this point. Pagans tend to be independent thinkers who want to go their own ways, so you might want to stop letting them tell you what’s what.

Write Your Values Down.

That leads us to creating our own values.  You probably already have them, but unless you spend some time doing some serious soul searching you most likely are being influenced by a number of forces beyond your control, including the aforementioned media and Christianity as well as your parents, your class, and your race.  A number of pagan religions have lists of values that you can live by including Asatru and ADF Druidry. I would encourage you to look at your own traditions and see what positive statements of value are made.

List those out but don’t stop there.  Add on your own, ask people you admire what they value.  Post your list on your fridge and try it out.  When you have to make a decision, run it past your values first.  Does your instinctive reaction align with your stated values? In my tradition the basic values are Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Perseverance, Integrity, Hospitality, Fertility, and Moderation.

For myself, I have added and shifted my understanding over the years.  For a long time I was comfortable with the argument that Compassion was a subset of Wisdom.  Now I keep them as seperate virtues because I started feeling like I was shoehorning myself into a value system that didn’t quite fit right and my ethics were starting to develop bunions and blisters.  Sustainability, Community, and Diversity are three of my personal values that I often use in decision making:

  • Does this thing or action build Community?
  • Does it encourage or or feed Diversity?
  • And at my core, I ask myself does an action support Sustainability for the planet and all beings?

What are the values you want to bring into this world and support? If you know that, then you know where you’re going. You have given yourself a flashlight in the darkness, built out of your own beliefs and effort.

a central candle lights up a circular pattern of shells and stones creating a natural mandala.
Hope Mandala by Rev. Hill

Review Their Values.

Do your research so that you know what their values are. Go to this link by the League of Women Voters to see your ballot. It’s better and easier to do this on your computer.  Some candidates will have links you can click on, but I would encourage you to open a second tab in your web browser and copy their name into the search bar and see what news comes up.  See what they’ve actually done, which is far more useful than what they say.

Even when I’ve only taken twenty minutes to do research my opinion has been much more informed.  Sure it’s great to spend a leisurely Sunday morning drinking coffee and exploring the complicated details of a candidates voting record with your partners.  If you have the time, please do so and enjoy the self-satisfaction of a job well done. However life is real and busy and we don’t even get to have the day off for voting.  We have a governmentally mandated day off to celebrate Columbus, who brought smallpox and death to this continent, but not a day off for Election Day.  So if you only have 20 minutes to spend, don’t delay or feel bad!  Do what you can. It can be more than enough time to figure out all the candidates and millages.

Root Yourself in Your Spirituality

Often as pagans we resist bringing our religion into our politics for excellent reasons.  We have all seen how religious feelings can bring out hatred and cruelty.  The thing is, as pagans, we don’t value those things.  Once you’ve done the work to discover what your values are it’s easy to see how you want to act. It does take time and effort, and I would suggest annually rechecking your values and spending some time reviewing how you’ve done living by them, if you want to add any,or if you had a hard time with some ethical dilemmas because of your values.

I encourage you to say a prayer or charm before you go to do your civic duty and to see that duty as a sacred act. Below I share a prayer I wrote this summer to Liberty and Justice, feel free to use it or make your own.

Prayer to Liberty and Justice

Liberty and Justice, Ladies of our Land, Gatekeeper and Balance Maker I call out to you today!
Blessed couple, balanced in duty and integrity, steady beating hearts of our country.
You are the best of what we are, the ideals we can hold true to.
Liberty I give thanks to you who guard and guide those generations of people who became Americans by traveling from far places.
Justice, I give thanks to you who embodies true fairness, who has evolved and changed as our concepts of integrity have grown in compassion and fullness.

I give thanks to the beloved ones who bless this land and ask that they keep us all within their sight. I ask for them to watch over the weak and the poor, the homeless and the subjugated.
I ask them to watch over those who are caged, those who are killed, those who fear for their lives and the lives of those they love.
I ask for for the hospitality and generosity of Liberty and for the right action and harmony of Justice.
For these are the things that truly make America great again.
For hatred, cruelty, and destruction have no place in our spaces and our Republic.

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

With Liberty and Justice for all.
For all of us.

Resources:

On children and brands, 

On Apple’s Brand Values

Thank you so much for reading, and please, please, please: Go Vote!  If you’ve done that and found my post useful maybe afterwards consider becoming a Patreon and supporting my writing and work. 

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