On these times … and what to do about them.

I know many of us are feeling discouraged, if not downright depressed. We are pained every day by the onslaught of corruption, unprecedented violations of process, and absence of adherence to basic values of democracy. “Why even bother to vote?” some are asking. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. The pain is getting bad enough that it might get better.

We’ve all heard the saying that people won’t change unless the pain of changing is surpassed by the pain of not changing. As is often the case, the people who are suffering most under this immoral regime are the minority. But when the white majority either feels the pain of their neighbors (such as the pain of children being kept from their parents in cages) or feels pain directly themselves (such as the economic consequences of trade wars, or the disturbing realization that Trump is more responsive to Putin than to his own people), change for the better could come fast.

2. Our systems have gotten stuck enough that they might move forward.

Stuck systems have played into the GOP dream of shrinking government to a size it could be drowned in a bathtub. In other words, if they couldn’t kill government (and thus leave the elites of the 1% and the biggest of big businesses unaccountable), they could paralyze it. But when enough people start needing the government to actually function, they could throw their energies toward candidates with an actual constructive vision.

3. Our strategies have become negative enough that they might turn positive.

Perhaps it will take more mass killings to scare us away from murderous rhetoric. Perhaps it will simply be that the meanness of discourse online and on mass media will trip some faint warning system that makes more of us say, “That’s too far! Enough is enough!” Either way, we may reach a point where we demand not only morally desirable ends but also morally defensible means — including rhetorical means — to achieve them.

4. People are divided enough that they might come together.

Many Americans are possessed by a fear that the other side might win. But there’s another fear lurking out there, a fear that we could become so splintered and fractious that chaos could be unleashed. When that fear happens, we may see movement toward seeking win-win collaboration instead of win-lose competition.

5. Our challenges run deep enough that we might turn inward.

Most Americans still seem to be at the stage of blaming either an individual or a party for our national problems. Replace them, we think, and everything will be OK. But eventually, we may come to see that beneath our political and economic symptoms there lies a spiritual problem, on the level of consciousness, on the level of the deepest stories we live by, on the level of shared virtues, values, and vision for a desired future. If we try to solve our problems on a political or social level only, without addressing the deeper spiritual dimensions, we will never experience our needed breakthrough.

Of course, the word “might” in each statement is a reminder that things might get worse, much worse, before they get better. And to be frank, sometimes some things get so bad that they never get better.

But if we don’t panic, give up, over-react, under-react, and otherwise miss our moment for goodness and greatness, that word “might” holds the possibility of better days ahead.

Many of us have come to see that our American experiment is driving toward a dead end. But not enough of us realize it yet, so we haven’t yet hit the brakes. If we keep speeding forward, we may experience something far worse than mere political upheaval: we or our children may face civilizational collapse.

We moved from the medieval/feudal world to the modern/capitalist world about 500 years ago, and that modern/capitalist/communist world has been based on an extractive and exploitive economy — extracting natural resources from the earth’s ecosystems at a faster rate than they can be renewed, and exploiting the labor of the majority so that elites can live in unimaginable ease and luxury.

This system is unsustainable, and as it collapses, many will try to patch it back together and fix it. They will be driven by nostalgia and resentment rather than creativity and courage.

For a just, generous, and regenerative way of life to emerge, we will need to let the pain of the unsustainable present launch us to imagine and create a better, regenerative future.

It’s not too late to chart a different course. If we shift from self-interest and party-interest to the common good, we can create new systems that help us move forward. We can discover positive strategies that have fewer unintended negative consequences, with more long-term common good benefits.

No matter how different we are, or appear to be, we share our common origins, common destiny, and our common experience of suffering and hope. That’s why, even when doing so feels like such a small thing, we should vote, and vote for the common good. It’s the least we can do … and the least is better than nothing. Much, much better.


If you know someone who isn’t planning to vote, I hope you’ll forward this to them.

This article is adapted from articles I wrote for Vote Common Good and Red Letter Christians.