Ask not what your country can do for you…..
My mother was called for jury duty only once in her life. She was so excited about it and wanted so much to be selected that she put together a special outfit to show her pride. “I even wore red, white, and blue colors!” she said with dismay after not being chosen. It was funny because it was a very Mom thing to do. But I also loved her passion and desire to show up and serve as a citizen.
It’s not like it was something we discussed in our family, but voting was just what you did. And my involvement in activism after college made being a part of the political process in this one small way even more important. I remember kicking myself for not registering to vote in time when I moved to Atlanta in 1990 and having to miss the gubernatorial election that year.
I’ll confess I’m pretty proud of my voting record, especially in the last seventeen years I’ve been in California. The votes may not have always gone my way, but I always try to make an effort to show up and make sure my voice is counted. And I’ll admit I’m still rather mystified by those who don’t.
Whether it’s a belief their vote won’t count, or a dislike of the candidates, or some idea that nothing will change and all politicians are the same, to me, well, it seems tragically shortsighted. Because there’s a lot more at stake than just who gets the Oval Office.
On every ballot there will be a number of propositions directly impacting your city and state government. In California we have no less than 25 measures to vote on. Twenty-freakin’-five! (Sorry, Texas, we’re bigger in this department.) Seventeen of these measures are state measures and include decisions on a cigarette tax, the death penalty, Citizens United, and even requiring mandatory condom use in adult films. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.
North Dakota will have 6 measures on their ballot including a tobacco tax, medical marijuana, and the rights of crime victims. Voters in Maine will be answering the call on a tax issue, background checks for guns, and a minimum wage increase. Almost every state is asking its residents to help make decisions like these.
Guess what else you get to vote on when you show up at the polls on November 8th? Congress! That’s right, seats in the House and Senate are up for grabs. Been feeling low about Capitol Hill’s performance these days? Feel like you aren’t being properly represented in your district? Here’s your chance to do something about it!
Oh, and did I mention there are also state and local judges to elect to the bench and candidates for school boards too?
All of those measures, Congressional seats, and judges are decided on by the people. Every person’s vote is counted toward a decisive whole on matters that could directly impact you and your community – and how you’re all represented. Voting isn’t just about the presidency. It’s about every level of political office and matters of state law.
As for the presidency, I may not always be thrilled with the candidates, but I also know I’m not voting for prom queen. I don’t vote for someone because I can “have a beer with them” nor do I buy into the idea that I need to like them. They’re not going to come over to my place to Netflix and chill any time soon – or ever. Which is good because I don’t want them to. They’re supposed to be doing their job helping our country run and improve, not become my new BFF.
The likeability factor, for me, is overrated. Personally, I want a leader who’s got a plan and whose focus is on getting shit done, not on being voted most popular. I already know the candidates are flawed. And I already know I’m not going to like everything they do and I’m already prepared for mistakes to be made. They’re human and they have to deal with other humans (Congress) which means it’s likely gonna get messy. Trust me, even if you like a candidate today, they will eventually do something to piss you off. It’s a given. We’re not gonna get perfection from anybody.
Yes, it’s been an ugly election, but I don’t buy into the ugly. I’m sick of it and it’s exhausting, but it’s hardly a first. And we’ve always been afraid of something and/or someone. Generating fear is a go-to tactic for most politicians. It’s interesting how each time people seemed so surprised by it all. History does repeat itself – because we keep forgetting it.
So the mud-slinging, the name-calling, and the fear-baiting…while it’s been a lot more immature this time around (from one candidate in particular), none of this is really new, not to me at least. It’s just got a different face – and a Twitter account.
And for the record, this country is already pretty remarkable as are its people. We have work to do and we’ve certainly got a fair share of ugly stains on the pages of our past. But, oh my, have we also come through a lot. We’ve been through booms and busts and wars and crises. We get our fair share of grief from other countries, understandably, but we are still recognized as one of the greatest forces to be reckoned with.
And yet despite all this, there are those who still insist on and want us to believe we’re on the verge of the apocalypse.
We’re not. We’re still here and we’re gonna be okay. Because that’s what we Americans do. We find a way. No, it’s isn’t always easy or pretty. And it’s absolutely not through violence. But sometimes it does mean speaking up. And one of the ways we get to do that is through voting.
I take seriously, especially as a woman, that people were beaten, jailed, and even murdered fighting for everyone’s right to have a place in the voting booth. They risked reputation, ridicule, and much more because they believed this right was so vital. I honor them and their sacrifices by believing it too. Even if it doesn’t go my way.
I care about what’s on the ballot because while it may not immediately or directly impact me, I know it will impact others. And I care about that. I think those issues are worth taking some time out of my day to take a stand on. I believe in standing for something and for my community.
…ask what you can do for your country.
I believe voting is one of the ways I get to show up for my country.
Yes, I know my lone vote won’t sway any decision one way or the other, but I do know it counts toward a larger whole – and that does count for something. One person pushing a boulder won’t move it. But a lot of people pushing that boulder? That gets the job done. I’d rather help push the boulder if it means clearing the path for better possibilities in the future, if I believe it will help move us forward.
And I will also show up and push because I know others are going to show up in droves to push back and keep that boulder in its place and that path blocked. Which side will have more people show up? When it comes to voting, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Numbers matter. Personally, I want to contribute my part to the whole.
To some, I imagine my words are going to seem very simplistic and idealistic. Well, frankly, I do think we make things entirely more complex than they often need to be and I’d rather aspire to a higher ideal than wallow in anger, misery, and fear.
And so I vote. Because if I don’t, then I’m essentially giving up my power and letting other people make the decision for me. That isn’t patriotic or thoughtful. It’s really just kinda lazy. Anybody can talk about wanting change, but actions speak louder than words and I know what I want my actions to say about me.
Unlike my fabulous mom, I don’t need to wear red, white, and blue or a flag pin to prove I care about my country. And I’m not sharing all this to brag or condescend. It’s simply my long-winded way of trying to offer another perspective on why voting matters and why I hope you’ll show up to vote too. Take it or leave it.
An election is the one day a year my government sends me a formal invitation to participate in the process and play in the political sandbox. I intend to always RSVP by checking the box that says, “Yes.”
How will you respond?
You are love(d).