The time to make your voice heard regarding the leadership of our country is just around the corner. But before you stop reading this column for fear it’s just another political ad, hear me out.

I AM a highly political person, but this will not be a partisan advertisement. And considering I am one of only 12 liberals in Western Maryland and one of only six people who has nothing nice to say about our current president, I will keep my political comments to myself.

Now, regarding all of you misguided conservatives out there … whoops, sorry, I already broke my promise! But all seriousness aside (Steve Allen, circa 1969), I prefer the label of “progressive” versus liberal for my left-leaning tendencies, because that’s really at the heart of this issue.

Conservatives seem to want to return to some previous point in time, like the ‘50s, or the ‘40s, when life was truly simpler. But they don’t seem willing to part with any of their 21st century perks, like big-screen TVs, cellphones and light beer.

They also would have us return to a time when gender roles were more clearly defined, such as the “me-man-you-woman” philosophy of relationships, which I think is usually espoused by the “me-man” types out there.

Conservatives also seem, to me at least, to embrace strong family units, with significant emphasis on the church as an important fabric of our lives, which I actually agree with. But I’m not sure universal religion is practical in today’s society which, rightfully so, values independence and freedom of choice in all aspects of daily living.

Progressives, on the other hand, see our country as a point in history and ask, “how can we make our existence better?” We also advocate for treating those in our society who are the neediest as being entitled to basic human rights.

In Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (sorry … I’m a sociologist), food, clothing and shelter are must-haves before any of us can become self-actualized and develop into fully functioning members of our society.

My wife and I own a condo near Wilmington, North Carolina, easily one of the reddest of the red states in our divided country. Yet when we’re there, we see an overwhelmingly presence of Hispanic, Latino and African-American populations, traditional mainstays of the Democratic Party. So we wonder, don’t these folks vote? Of course, the sad answer is probably not.

They might not vote because they are not legal citizens, or perhaps they don’t think their votes would count. Or maybe they simply spend so much of their time and energy just getting by that they don’t have anything left in the tank to care about who leads our country, or which direction we are headed.

Progressives think these folks’ lives matter just as much as our own, and therefore deserve to have access to whatever resources are available to bring their lives up to a level of basic human dignity.

And while I’m on my political soapbox, can someone please fix Maryland’s antiquated rule that voters who decline party affiliation can’t vote in the primaries? I’ve been an independent all of my voting life, and if I lived in one of 23 other states I could walk into a polling place and decide to vote either Democrat or Republican in a primary, and be given a ballot on the spot! No questions asked.

It still honors the one-person-one-vote rule, and recognizes that, in 2020, a huge segment of the populace, about 30%, doesn’t like either party enough to want to be labeled Republican or Democrat. Hey Maryland … get with it! Time to flex your all-inclusive muscles and join the 21st century before it becomes the 22nd!

My goal here this month has been to motivate my fellow citizens to exercise their rights to vote in a couple of weeks, without regard to who they cast their votes for. Participating in our democracy is what keeps us all free. Our forefathers fought and died for us to have these freedoms; let’s make them proud.

Bill Crawford is a LaVale freelnace writer. His column appears in the Times-News on the third weekend of each month.

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