Eighty-five and counting. That’s how many political campaign flyers my husband and I have received since we last checked our mail a few days ago.
Want to know how many of those flyers swayed my vote? Zero. That’s because I cast my vote weeks ago before I had the wherewithal to leaf through the flyers claiming to “crack down on corruption”, “save public education” or “keep the neighborhood safe”.
GOT GUILT? (OR A WEE BIT OF SELF-RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION?)
I have minor guilt referring to those glossy pieces of full-color propaganda as “junk”. After all, precious union labor and time were spent producing those mailers that cost serious dollars raised by consultants, friends and supporters who, more or less, champion the candidate or issue now boiled down to a catchy slogan.
I could get bent out of shape over the trees that were needlessly chopped down for the ephemeral, and frankly rarely memorable, message printed with non-soy-based ink on non-recycled-stock (that, to the dismay of many artsy moms, is too heavy to make papier mache art projects with their wee ones). But that’s another matter worthy of its own PBS segment.
Like most people, I prefer to live my life rather than spend it sorting through the politics behind the policies. But the real issue is not the ad buys, the amount of money raised or the messaging tactics. The real important issue that is too often eclipsed by the ubiquitous mud-slinging and relentless button-pushing is that we need to remember who holds the power. A few times a year (not just during a presidential election year though the mainstream media may have it appear otherwise), we, the people, have a chance to formally and officially use our voice and make it count.
Voting is a chance to “give the people what they want”. As I heard Gloria Steinem say recently, voting is the great equalizer where the vote of any citizen bears the same weight as the vote of any billionaire CEO. For a country with rights and privileges the envy of many nations, it’s interesting that voter turnout in 2008 was only 58%. What about the remaining 42% of the voting age population who didn’t make it to the polls? What matters to them? Voter/employee intimidation aside, it remains a mystery without their votes cast in the ballot box.
In a democracy, voting is a privilege that, by design, exists to remind us how much power we hold collectively. It’s a chance to decide who’s best to represent our families and communities, to weigh in on the issues that affect our lives and to improve and/or alter the course of our future. It’s not without its flaws, and we won’t all come to an agreement. If I want to do my part in preserving democracy, it makes sense to stay in the system and vote — for what I believe is possible, for what I know is right for my family and me, and for what responsibilities I can commit to share with my community. Relinquishing it is also an option, I suppose, but one that is tantamount to saying, “I don’t matter” or “I don’t count”, which is cynical and false. Ask any tax collector or peddler of Apple products. Worse yet, the inaction of not voting has ill effects that the next generation is too young to know and does not deserve to inherit.
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” ~ Isaac Asimov
Red or blue or green?
What’s your vote worth to you?
Do we have an obligation to those who fought for suffrage and women’s suffrage?
Do we grasp the true value of something only when it is threatened?