Dear U.S. voter: Feeling insecure? Try using your imagination.

Dear U. S. voters – 

There's been a lot of talk about something many reporters have called “election insecurity”: the feeling of anxiety many people have as they consider what might happen on election day. 

Election insecurity is something I know pretty well. Why? Because I was 18 in 1992, when Oregon, and many other states, began to put LGBTQII rights up for popular votes.  Local and state-wide ballot measures contained language like, “Changes the state constitution to define homosexuality as abnormal, unnatural and perverse” and “prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding any program or institution that casts homosexuality in a positive light” and “requires all state employees to discourage homosexuality.” 

Can you imagine the world in which a law like that passes? I can. Because a law banning protections for LGBTQII workers passed in Oregon in 1988, and other more regressive laws followed on Oregon’s ballot throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Yes, I can imagine a world in which those kinds of laws pass, because I lived in that world. In fact, I came out as a lesbian in 1992 in that exact world. I picked a good time to be gay. 

From the time I came out at age 18 until I turned 30, numerous anti-LGBTQII ballot measures occupied election days in Oregon and other states. And each time, my friends and I, my big gay lovers and I, all of us, held our collective breath. Would this be the time a state-wide ballot measure passed and basically made it illegal to be queer? What would it mean in practice? Every LGBTQII person in Oregon had to imagine how our daily lives would be impacted if such regressive laws passed.

 Ballot Measure 9 - yes, for real - the language of the ballot. 

Ballot Measure 9 - yes, for real - the language of the ballot. 

Imagination can be very useful in a process of discernment. The Oxford dictionary defines imagination as: "the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.” Notice in this definition that imagination is a kind of muscle to utilize to form a new perspective, outside of, and distinct from, "the senses."  Senses like intense emotion. Imagination is not emotion - emotions are what happen after we imagine something. 

An emotion-intensive tactic was used by the Oregon Citizens alliance when they tried to pass the anti-LGBTQII community ballot measures during the 1990s and 2000s. They never asked us, as voters, to form new ideas or images for ourselves. Instead, they took very old ideas and concepts, then used those to create ads, images, and other ways of attacking the senses with a thousand versions of hell and damnation – hoping that they could convince voters that what they imagined to be true, was in fact true. Hoping to stir people into primal fear and emotional states of mind. Sound familiar at all?

During the 2016 election, each time I listen to Donald Trump, he doesn’t invite me to imagine – to form new ideas – instead, he feeds his own imagination to me, and hopes my emotions get so stirred up that I’ll forget that it's his imagination stirring me, rather than my own. Trump hopes that his imagination will be so convincing, so stirring to my emotions, that I'll just agree with him, because he will offer me an outlet for my emotion, and also, the promise of further emotional highs.

When I listen to Trump’s imaginary world where all Mexicans are rapists, where he can grab my pussy without consequence because he’s famous (though clearly, he would never do that to me, as I’m pretty butchy as far as lesbians go), a lot of emotions are stirred in my body. Imagination can stir emotion. But remember the definition? “The faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.” Emotions are senses – and Trump uses his imagination to stir up our senses. And for some of us, we just can’t get enough, and we’d even like to have four more years of it via a Trump presidency.

Frankly, I've had enough of election insecurity. U.S. voter, I just want you to know how scary it was for me and for many others back in the 1990s and 2000s during the anti-LGBTQII ballot measure campaigns. Those times were not scary because of our imaginations. No, reality was scary enough. The elections of the 1990s were bracketed by 6-12 months of increased anti-LGBTQII violence, including murders of gay men and lesbians. I experienced a few assaults at the hands of anti-LGBTQII people during those years, too. Yes, in “Portlandia.” I came of age witnessing the stress put on people whose status as citizens was put up for popular vote. It’s awful. 

 From the film "Ballot Measure 9" - click the photo to see the trailer! A great, important film. 

From the film "Ballot Measure 9" - click the photo to see the trailer! A great, important film. 

Trump chose to put a lot of people’s lives up for popular vote in 2016, in a way that I think the vast majority of you, my dear U.S. voters, find repulsive. Repulsive, because you do have an imagination of your own. You can imagine what a Trump presidency would do to the social fabric of the United States and the world. You can imagine what a Trump presidency would do to the U.S. economy. To the U.S. concepts of freedom of press and speech. I have faith in you, U.S. voter. Why? Because in Oregon, ultimately, voters rejected the fear and scare tactics of the Oregon Citizens Alliance’s efforts. They rejected the emotions stirred up by the fear tactics generated by the imaginations of the Oregon Citizens Alliance. My fellow voters turned to face people like me, and saw me as I was – a neighbor, a teacher, a student, a customer, a taxpayer, a fairly boring and predictable individual. They used their imaginations to consider what my life might be like if they passed Measure 9, 13, and second 9. In the end, voters rejected an imagined world of violence, fear and conspiracy.

Dear U.S. voter, I encourage you to use your imagination, your “faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses” because the use of imagination helps clarify reality. It helps to clarify what information, from which senses, you want to act upon. Imagination helps with discernment, for example, helping to discern what someone’s actions are, in comparison to what a feeling or emotion might suggest. 

The thing is, on election day 2016, I want you, my dear U.S. voter, to listen to your own imagination. Don't listen to anyone else's imagination. Instead, use your own imagination to play out what will actually happen if certain decisions come to pass through the popular vote. Use your imagination, because I feel confident it will help to clarify what sort of United States you want to live in on Wednesday, November 9th, 2016.

I know you will make a great choice. Since I lived through the 1990s, I do feel some fear. In 2004, Oregon did pass an anti-LGBTQII ballot measure, which broke my heart. Yet, here I am, in 2016, f’n MARRIED to my WIFE. 

Someday, I look forward to sharing a really boring Presidential election with you all. I can imagine two candidates who both have experience in governing a nation of incredible diversity of all forms. I can imagine two candidates, one I prefer, but one whose possible presidency just makes me shrug. 

Tomorrow, we won’t have to imagine anymore. Our imaginations will be confronted with a kind of reality: votes. 

So, get your ballot in. And imagine just how much warmth you will feel with your fellow citizen when we all say, together, "President Hillary Clinton."