My Election Red, White, and Blues: Beyond 50 Shades of Gray

I grew up in a moderately progressive family during the 1930s and '40s. My mother was a child of extreme poverty who became a fashion model as her way out of hunger, and my father, also born poor, became a reasonably successful businessman. They did not use words like evil except to describe a Hitler or a Stalin -- and as their child I was encouraged to see people and the world in those fifty shades of gray (not the sexy kind but the ethical kind) to take a balanced view which meant weighing the good and the not so good in everyone and every issue in order to made a judgment. I also was taught that a judgment was just an opinion -- my opinion. Being fair to others was the goal -- and being doctrinaire was not considered fairness. My parents could see the good in a Republican Wendell Willkie and a John Lindsey although they tended to vote the straight Democratic ticket out of their abiding love for FDR. They had lived through the Great Depression and they understood the role of government in saving lives, restoring an economy, and helping to create a community of citizens who located their own personal welfare in the general welfare.

Alas, I am about to toss aside my good parents' fifty shades of gray and render some harsh black-and-white judgments about this coming election.

I will vote for Barack Obama not just because I generally approve of what he has done (save for some strong reservations about his not breaking up the banking system into safe "small enough to fail" parts -- and sending drones to target terrorists with the unintended consequence of creating enemies among innocent victims) but mainly I will vote to reelect President Obama because I believe that Mitt Romney will be a disaster for America, a human Hurricane Sandy, and as an old guy who needs his SS and Medicare, and a benevolent government, I am quite selfishly in fear for my own well-being and that of my wife in these, my last years. I have heard nothing from Romney but a creed of selfishness repulsively covered by a smirk of righteousness. Momma, Poppa, your only son is sorry. I see no shades of gray in this man. I believe that this is a man who worships at the shrine of selfishness, a man who has replaced compassion with condescension, a man who exploits fear and prejudice, a man who believes he is superior to me, and most of humanity, because he has perfected a wider range of tricks for gaming the system.

I will vote for Barack Obama because I love my very young granddaughters, and I do not want these wonder girl to face a world in which rape -- an act of hideous violence -- is a subject for unscientific, religion-based speculation, and where their opportunities for advancement are stifled by extreme right-wing Supreme Court Justices, and the absence of laws which protect their equality of opportunity. I will vote for Barack Obama because my married gay friends Ken and David are among the best people I know, and deserve the right to live together with all the legal rights and social privileges that my wife and I, married for sixty years, enjoy. And I will vote for Barack Obama because we live in a nation of minorities -- each of who deserves an equal share in the world's opportunities according to their talents. And I believe that Mitt Romney will create a gated community around those opportunities -- locking them out from the education and advancement that is their human right -- one that will shut out those who come from a different race or culture. I believe that Romney only sees fifty shades of white -- fine for an interior decorator -- bad for a potential world leader.

I will vote for Barack Obama because I have just lived through Hurricane Sandy in New York City, and I know there are lessons to be learned -- lessons that Romney refuses to acknowledge. The first is that global warming is real and a threat to our world, the second that without FEMA -- which he castigated during the primaries -- my city and those in nearby New Jersey would be unable to recover -- and like it or not we are at the core of this country's prosperity.

I will vote not only for Barack Obama but also against Mitt Romney because Romney is a shape shifter, something that has always been considered a lack of character and an act of dishonesty in my long lifetime, and is now regarded as clever pragmatism -- "moving towards the middle to win."

I believe that the election of Mitt Romney is a vote for a new dark ages -- for a return to an America of self-justifying paternalism, inequality, a new gilded age for those -- like Romney himself -- whose eye is always on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow -- but who are incapable of seeing the rainbow in-between in all its beautiful colors. I will vote for Barack Obama because he understands that the arts are not some wasteful frippery that must be cut for the good of the economy -- as Romney does -- but a huge part of what creates a decent civilization: art being as important in its own way as computer science in creating a civil society. I will vote against Mitt Romney because I deeply love my country, and I know how good it can be, but yet how vulnerable it is to a leader who will prey on its worst instincts -- the politician as predator.

Mostly, I will vote for Barack Obama because for all his failings he is a good man in the way I understand good -- a person of compassion, grounded in decency, and I find in his opponent a man who will actively destroy the opportunities of the working man in favor of granting more and more privileges to the few. So I apologize to my good parents for disregarding their lessons and not looking for the best in everyone. I cannot be fair if fair means seeing a gentle smile in a cruel smirk and a leader in one who follows the worst of human instincts -- selfishness. I am afraid that in the case of Romney there are no fifty shades of gray for me -- only a choice between good and evil as I understand them. It is that simple for me. And I hope that by next Tuesday it will be that simple for the voters of America.