• Stephanie Kohler

Vote With Your Life

Welcome to the voting season of our discontent. We have this dance oh-so-reliably every four years. It always espouses the same rhetoric, proclaiming that we have this ONE CHANCE, this SINGLE OPPORTUNITY to cast PARTICULAR VOTE that affects our lives.

But, given the abysmally low voter turnouts in the US, clearly many Americans don’t believe the rhetoric of the ONE GREAT OPPORTUNITY to vote for president.

This fixation on the presidential election has tended to obscure that we have far more abundance of opportunity in our political process. As we continue shifting in the Age of Aquarius, we can expand into these opportunities.

Though dialogue disproportionately occurs more around presidential elections, we have many more smaller elections. These don’t have the sexiness or exclusivity or that ONE GREAT ELECTION. But they affect our lives just as profoundly. Property taxes, sales taxes, judicial appointments, law enforcement and public safety decisions, educational resources—we are not limited by the ONE SPECIFIC OPPORTUNITY to vote for ONE PERSON. You can vote several times a year, every year, if you elect to do so.

But maybe you don’t vote via ballots—perhaps due to age, citizenship, personal history, or personal principles. Nevertheless, I maintain that you are always voting, in an off-ballot way. Think of it as voting with you life.

The potential of this idea became clear to me over 10 years ago, when I was living in the northern part of Decatur. I was vegan, a choice that back then was a huge hassle and often a source of social tension. Intown grocery stores had a few vegan options. The only places with multiple types and brands of non-dairy milk were Rainbow Natural Foods and Sevananda.

One day, I was in a mainstream grocery store, in order to stock up on household supplies. I peeked into the “natural foods” section, which had never carried many vegan items. I was shocked—truly taken off guard—to find soy milk, which I’d never seen in a mainstream grocery store in the South. I was confused. I didn’t think a mainstream grocery store, full of processed “food products” cared about the few hippie vegans in the area.

But then I thought about the location—I was across the street from Rainbow. I could nearly read the store window from the parking lot. I thought about the niche market traffic over there, and then I understood.

Do you? Or at least see the potential? Through our life choices, we vote constantly. Especially the choices which involve our wallets. Our food supply, our entertainment, our government, are dependent upon public participation.

Nowadays, all the grocery stores I visit have multiple types and brands of non-dairy milk, including in-house brands. Is that because Wal-Mart loves vegans? Somehow I doubt it, given that its employees aren’t paid a living wage. But it does care considerably about satisfying the largest population of customers.

Since then, I think of life as ongoing votes—especially the choices of what I buy. Equally important: what I don’t buy. With that perspective, there are abundant opportunities to vote.

But it’s easy to forget that abundance when we’re conditioned to the familiar narrative of the ONE CRUCIAL VOTE of the presidential election. The election cycle is a useful framework, to which we’re very accustomed. Perhaps in our history, this framework was more relevant, more functional—delineating political process like a mandala delineates a sacred space.

Structure is important, but equally so not to be attached to it. When the mentality around it—the ONLY OPPORTUNITY hype—is so dysfunctional, breaking out of this structure becomes vital.

Voting of any kind is a way to create change. Any kind of change, evolution, transformation require expansions of thoughts and actions. This is one of those times. You don’t have to wait until presidential elections to vote. You don’t have to wait for rules to be adopted; you don’t have to wait for laws to prohibit. Regardless of how you define your beliefs—spiritual, agnostic, religious, pragmatic, etc—you can exercise your power in the many choices you have every day.

I find all these options incredibly empowering. After all these years of voting with my life, it’s hard not to view even small decisions as political. For example, I dislike many women characters in mainstream films. Too often they are boring, gratuitous, and predictable. Consequently, I don’t see a lot of mainstream movies, so as not to encourage what I dislike.

But Mad Max: Fury Road? I saw that 3 times. In the theater.


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