I lied about my identity on my voter registration.

Not on my name, age, or address.

But on my political affiliation.

I didn’t want to be penalized in state or local elections by checking anything but “democrat” or “republican” (since I’d then only be able to receive nonpartisan ballots).

So I checked the box that most closely aligned with my convictions, although neither option felt like a good (or moral) fit.

The truth is, I don’t want a political identity. But I gave myself one. I sold myself out and joined the political world of “us vs. them.” I slapped a label on myself that would allow others to make assumptions about who I was and what I cared about.

When people actually ask me how I vote, I reply with, “I vote as a Christian.” When pushed to elaborate, I oversimplify by saying I’m socially conservative and fiscally liberal (I’ve literally had people laugh out loud when I’ve said this). And yes, I realize that party will never exist.

Which is a shame.

There are certain moral issues I will not budge on. And because I hope to see elected officials that will share some of those same values in office, I tend to side with a particular party.

Which means I sometimes fall silent on certain injustices because I’m afraid to see that party lose support. And I sometimes fail to praise another party for their wins, because I’m afraid to see them gain it.

The radical polarization of the parties has eliminated free-thinking. Multi-faceted issues have become two-dimensional. Republicans believe X, Democrats believe Y, and straying from those established stances = weakness.

The only thing gaining strength in our country is our divide.

And that’s no fault of our elected officials, it’s only our own. Criticize them all you want, but they’re only delivering what was asked for.

“We the people” have the power to change what our parties stand for. Heck, we have the power to make the party system meaningless.

Let’s quit electing parties and begin electing good, strong leaders. Leaders that don’t fall into categories with predictable, rigid ideologies.

Let’s start by swallowing our pride. You are not your political affiliation, so loosening your political grip does not mean you’re sacrificing your identity. Voicing support for something generally Democratic or generally Republican is not a win for “the other side.” Forming educated and meaningful opinions is a win for us all.

Until we can start coming together, we’ll continue to grow farther apart. Our politicians and our political policies will evolve to meet the demands of the people.

I refuse to let a checkbox on a voter registration form hijack my true identity. I’m a Christian before anything else, and I will support, advocate and fight for whatever is necessary to uphold the integrity of my identity.

And I ask for you to hold me accountable and help educate me along the way.

Kiley Shuler

Kiley is a new momma, devout Catholic, servant of Christ, happy wife, and proponent for life. She also drinks entirely way too much coffee and gets tipsy off two glasses of wine.