Still, I feel honored to have all the politicians filling up my inbox giving me a break from the work that is threatening to bury my soul. It’s a nice breather.
And today, the great American holiday has finally arrived–bigger than Columbus Day, as infrequent as the Leap Year, and more expensive than the budgets of several small nations that 70% of Americans could neither find nor spell if dropped off in their capitals for a reality show–ELECTION DAY IS HERE!!!
I was reading James Altucher’s “Why I Won’t Vote,” watching comments ranging from supportive, “Voting is a waste, work in soup kitchens with the time,” to nearly inflammatory, “How could you not vote. Are you a communist?” I may have taken liberties with that one. And communists do vote. There’s always at least one candidate to vote for and voting percentages are much more impressive than the US.
I nearly always agree with James–I’ll be agreeing with him on the outrageous cost of college in a day or two when I finish up that post. But voting–I’ll stand over the line on this one.
With society so broken and the electoral college virtually making my vote statistically insignificant, why do I vote? When politicians are so caught up in so much graft and corruption that we’re not even sure what the platform means anymore, why do I vote? When political action committees and large industries can buy candidates and I can barely get an email back from my national politicians, why do I vote?
Because they don’t get to win.
American society is unique. I’m not talking about “American exceptionalism” which basically states we’re ordained by the Almighty and get to do whatever we want on the world stage. I mean that America is truly unique. We complain a lot, we rally, petition, and rattle our sabers when things don’t go our way, but the truth is, we have that freedom. And when the chips are down, we put all that aside and come together–we have witnessed this time and time again in times of national emergencies.
I just got through showing “How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring,” in class. My seniors were eye-openingly shocked. “That’s WRONG!” Of course its wrong. One brave soul said, “Yeah but things are wrong here…”
You’re my scholar. Speak.
“We don’t have any fairness in our society. We have poverty, police brutality, and schools aren’t fair, people don’t have jobs. How is this different?”
“Well, for one, there’s no riots,” I offered up.
“That’s not true.” This scholar actually researched and read the material I put online about the LA riots and civil rights, and offered up some thoughts that we weren’t so far removed after all. Students reading and applying concepts, and beating me over the head with the baseball bat of my own lesson. It’s a beautiful thing. I sat back and watched the discussion unfold. These are the people whose actions will fix society much more than my paltry vote.
And yet I vote, not because I can cure the ills of society, but I consider it my “civic prayer.” Once every four years I get to pull the lever. Sometimes I vote for a candidate, other times I vote “none of the above.” I always vote for the local candidates, because it’s there that my vote does matter.
Thomas Jefferson recommended periodic revolution as “a medicine necessary for sound health and government.” He wasn’t talking about nicely voting people out of office–which is tough these days, because voting rates are so low that it looks more like Chairman Mao runs the elections. He stated that given a nation where a few supported him, more were against him and the majority didn’t care, and he would take over that nation. He was right. Most people would rather work the extra shift at time and a half than vote. I know–I ask my students and recent alumni this very question.
What if we extended American Idol or The X-Factor an extra five minutes and had people call and text in their votes for the presidential elections? Or set up a poll on Facebook or Twitter? I bet people would vote then. We could even go so far as to have a quiz–you answer twenty questions about platform issues, and it matches you up with a candidate and votes on your behalf. Simple. Then, it gives you extra points in some Zynga game, and notifies all your friends on your Facebook wall. That’s a good way to vote.
“YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” That was a comment from my professional election friends, who felt that security would be an issue. Heck, if we can register online for Federal College student aid and get a pin number, we can register to vote online. And since when has voter fraud been an issue anyway? Chicago? Florida? Anyone…Anyone…Bueller?
Yes, I’ll be voting today. It’s my civic prayer. I remind myself, in the words of Gandhi, to “be the change I want to see.” I will watch the American civic pageantry unfold throughout the day, and the winners be called overnight. I may even grumble at the results. I will encourage others to vote.
Most of all, I will take a moment in the booth to reflect and be grateful that I can vote. I will mentally thank my friends who served this country so my rights would be preserved. I will map out my strategy to make my community a better place, and to fix at least one aspect of this broken society. I will consider my friends from places that do not enjoy these rights, either through political or economic discrimination. I will pay homage to my friends and their families who have come to this country to enjoy some of the freedoms they wouldn’t have in their own lands and that Americans don’t always appreciate.
Whether my vote actually matters in society a point for the political pundits and statisticians to determine. James Carville will tell me later. But it matters to me. For one brief moment, I get to be in control. I get to plan my strategy and reflect upon the things that make this nation great. I get to reunite myself with the principle that change begins with me.