On Nov. 2, 2004, I cast my ballot for George W. Bush. I didn’t do it because I think gay marriage should be banned. I didn’t do it because I think abortions should be made illegal, or because I think Big Industry should be allowed to pollute the environment, or because I want to see America’s poor become poorer.
I cast my ballot as I did because I didn’t have faith in John Kerry to do what he promised. John Kerry appeared to be a vacillating opportunist.
But with each passing day, as I ruminate over my vote, sleep becomes more and more difficult. Shortly after the election, as I was casually explaining to a friend my reasons for voting as I did, someone joined the conversation and challenged me to justify my choice. Within minutes, my reasons were dismissed as small-minded, ignorant, and selfish. Worse, that’s how they suddenly seemed to me. As I was struggling to convey what had seemed so clear only minutes earlier, a man seated near us told the Kerry supporter that he should stop wasting his time with me.
In other words, it was clear to both of them that I was dogmatic and ignorant and would not yield no matter what I was told. That is perhaps the greatest insult I have ever received.
I left the conversation feeling that everything I had known so well on Nov. 2 was less clear-cut than I had previously thought. And I am now beginning to contemplate the possibility that I made a mistake on Election Day.
The only thing that disturbs me more than the possibility that I may have inadvertently voted in favor of many things that I abhor is the fact that the people around me want to equate my choice of candidate with my intellectual ability.
I’m sorry that the two people who I met that night feel they wasted their time in talking to me, because they opened my mind to things I had not considered before. One thing I am sure of is that there is a lot out there that I don’t know, and it serves as a solemn reminder of just how serious voting truly is.
It’s entirely possible that the vote I cast on Nov. 2 was a mistake. But if it was, that mistake does not define my character. I would hope that the intellectual honesty that I showed in earnestly listening to and considering an opposing point of view is worth more than any mistake I may or may not have made in a voting booth.
History will be the final judge of whether George W. Bush’s reelection is the monumental disaster many on this campus seem to paint it to be. In the meantime, I want to remind Kerry supporters that those who voted for Bush are not the enemy. I can say with reasonable certainty that people on both sides want to see America and the world move towards a brighter future. And that will not happen through insults--—it will happen through a genuine dialogue in which ideas are exchanged.
Those who are so quick to criticize George W. Bush for his narrow-minded worldview of good and evil need to be cautioned against making the same sort of black-and-white judgments by dividing the country into the enlightened and the ignorant.
All I can say is that I made the best decision based on what I knew at the time, and my opinion of that decision changes as my body of knowledge increases. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my mind is entirely changed—I still find quite a bit about Kerry to be unsavory—but I am willing to listen to all points of view and to accept the possibility that those points of view may be correct.
I just hope that those to whom I’m now listening don’t feel that they are wasting their time by sharing ideas.
The author is a Columbia College first-year.