The upcoming U.S. election will have a huge impact on the health of the Great Lakes Basin and all its inhabitants. The policies enacted by our elected officials will determine whether everyone has access to clean water, whether additional invasive species will make their way into the Great Lakes, and whether climate change will continue to increase unabated.
Given all that, and the fact that we’re in the middle of Voter Education Week, now is a good time to make sure we all are ready to vote, have a plan on how we'll vote, and are educated on the issues that affect the Great Lakes.
The Red River, Wisconsin (Photo by Dan Robinson)
While politics and spirituality may seem to be very different – polar opposites, some might even say – they both are concerned with the big picture, how we all fit into it, and how we live our lives in that context.
In politics, that big picture can be our individual community, state, nation, or even the world. For spirituality, that big picture includes the Divine and how we understand the nature of reality. But in both instances, we have to engage, seek out our place, clarify how we understand reality, and translate that understanding into a mindset and actions that affect the world around us.
Where the two sometimes diverge, and where spirituality can inform and help politics, is a commitment to the common good.
The self-serving politician serves as a cliché for people’s frustration with our political system, saying and doing whatever is necessary to retain their office and their power.
Full disclosure here... for a time, I was elected to city and county offices, and my sense was that the majority of elected officials truly wanted to do what they thought was best for the community (even though sometimes I may have disagreed with them). But there were a few who seemed motivated more by selfishness and self-preservation. The pull to preserve one’s position can be powerful.
A spiritual perspective can serve as a correction to that pull. Every spiritual tradition that I’m aware of has a concern for the common good as one of its core tenets. That doesn’t mean that the followers of that tradition are any better at acting for the common good than some politicians, but the call to concern for the wider world is present, nonetheless.
Out of a spiritual concern for the common good, then, we are called to participate in our political system, and right now, that means making our voices heard by voting.
So, that’s the “getting ready to vote” part. Next is having a plan on how we'll vote. Information on your state’s elections and voter resources can be found here. Many states are already having in-person voting or voting by mail, so now is the time to either vote or make your plan to vote, especially in the middle of this pandemic.
Next, we can all learn a bit more about the challenges facing the Great Lakes and where the candidates stand. Here are a couple of non-partisan resources for that:
Finally, I would just put in a plug for focusing not only on the Presidential election or federal and state offices, but also on local elections. Your city council member, county representative, or town board member has a real impact on the issues affecting the Great Lakes Basin and all of us living here. Be sure to find out their stances on concerns like:
Access to clean, drinkable water for everyone;
Control of pollution, both point and non-point sources;
Invasive species, including boating regulations;
Climate change and how their local municipality is combatting it.
Elections happen at different times throughout the year, particularly local elections, and Canada will have its next national elections in 2023. But in the U.S., now is the time to act for the common good and the Great Lakes by voting... it IS a spiritual thing.