A little over two months ago, I was standing in a plywood and cardboard voting booth and trying to decide if I was a cynic or an idealist.

In front of me, nestled into its slot, was a ballot with all but one hole punched out: Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative. The CCRI was the most contentious issue in the California election and, if passed, it would eliminate all Affirmative Action Programs in state hiring, contracting and school admissions.

The campaigns both for and against the proposition were marked with rampant political posturing and opportunism. Even the name was controversial: opponents said that the measure represented the antithesis of civil rights, while proponents claimed that by eliminating all racial and gender preferences, it stood for the truest meaning of the phrase. Those in favor invoked Martin Luther King sound bites ­ "...when they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character..." ­ and those opposed brandished placards that read, "The Ku Klux Klan Favors 209. Should You?"

By all accounts, it was a tasteless fight, a summary of everything people dislike like about politics and the political process. It was the sort of thing that keeps people home on election day.

But not me. I'd listened to both sides, but hadn't made up my mind. There, in the booth, the din had died down enough to let me think.

The society I want doesn't need preferences. The society I want works all by itself, without nudges and tilts. The society I want treats each person as simply that: a person. And it believes, to the smallest resolution, in the fundamental, original equity of each individual. America was founded on that central notion, and whatever compromises were made in the actual implementation of Constitution, the Declaration of Independence is still the guiding moral compass of my country.

I believe that. I believe that such a society is possible. I believe in the future, and I believe in the hope that can make that future. Fundamentally, I'm an optimist, an idealist.

So ... yes. I voted Yes. I punched the last hole in my ballot, and walked out of the booth believing that I had made a small stand for the future I want.

It was a month later that I had the conversation with the bigot.