November 7th, 2012, the day after… Voting in America has happened once again, and I have been more involved in it than ever before. No, I didn’t march with banners or knock on neighborhood doors to encourage people to agree with me, I did something that’s apparently becoming rare – I was on the front lines of vote collection. For a week, we went to hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes to make sure noone who wanted to participate in this activity lost their opportunity to do so.
Then, I set the alarm for 4am, hit the snooze one time too many, and dashed off in the cold dark almost-morning to be one of 5 people in our precinct who would work 13 hours straight checking id’s, collecting signatures, and handing out ballots, one per customer. We knew early that we would have more voters than ballots, and we called in to say so, a good two hours before the fateful moment arrived and we had to tell a group of tired voters that they could not yet record their choices. Turns out, as one voter learned by calling the local news station, that 14 precincts in our area also came up short on those precious pieces of paper. It begs for a better system, or at least the faith and preparation for a higher voter turnout, especially when the stakes are long declared to be so high, no matter which side you’re voting for.
I was pleased, all week, to find once again that the dreaded ‘us’ and ‘them’ who are so often depicted as pure good or pure evil are frankly just humans…all a bit of both. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not given up on the theology of fallen man, the critical need for salvation, the only Savior, and the priority of becoming more Christlike in character… but when it comes to politics, we need to have more dialog and less dogma, because both sides have their good ideas and their bad ones, and both have proven themselves equally susceptible to greed, corruption, lust, and favoritism.
For example, I did a little internal huffing and puffing at the lack of response and support the Inspector received from the, ahem, ‘other’ party, and began to fret about how the votes couldn’t be collected if there was not representation from both sides. At nearly the last minute, the delegation showed up (they had been waiting at a different location) and I was forced to swallow my thoughts as I realized that I was the only member of my party who would be supporting the Inspector’s efforts and responsibilities. I served two roles, because the people who were called on decided to make other plans rather than follow-up and follow-through. It’s not glamorous and not high-paying, but it’s very necessary if we’re to keep our civilized system of government selection operational.
We’re keeping the president that has held the title for the last four years. I’ve heard from people of both parties that this is not the preferred result, but nevertheless, it is the result we have. From here, we move forward…it’s the only direction life and history move. Perhaps some of us will take this result as a call to action – not action in the upper echelons, as that will not be changing for 2-4 years unless there’s another tragic event (may it not be so, for several reasons), but action at the ground level, among the ‘normal’ people who live day in & day out with the need to feed their families and the scarcity of options to earn income without selling body & soul to the corporate machine.
If you don’t like that your children are graduating without the capacity to write, spell, think rationally, or deduce cause and effect from the evidence provided, don’t bother Washington with it, get yourselves to some PTA meetings. Arrange a lunch for principals and administrators in your community and express your concerns – along with proposed answers, and counter-answers for the concerns your proposals might generate. Invite people who hold more than one perspective, and have an honest civilized discussion about what would be best for your children and the society they will inherit responsibility for. Commit a place and a little volunteer time on a regular schedule to tutor students who are struggling in a subject. Not only will it help them to learn the material, it could reignite the joy you once had in science, history, literature, or math – subjects you don’t get another chance to explore in most careers.
If you don’t like that your community resembles a war-zone or third world trash-heap town, don’t call on the Armani-suited Senator who drives by in a parade every 2-4 years schmoozing for votes. Instead, roll up your sleeves and grab a box of trash bags, some brooms, and the local teenagers looking for something important (or at least interesting) to do. Pick a street or corner that will be renovated this weekend, and another one next. Tell your mayor and police what you plan to do, and trade in your picket signs for paint brushes. Talk to each other as you work, reminisce about the days when there was a grocer who knew his customers by name, and the neighborhood families of every heritage carried food to their grieving neighbor’s family when the mother was sick and dying. This is the country we once were, and the country we could be again – 9/11 and hurricane damage have proven it. Now prove it in the day to day, stop waiting for disaster to give you an excuse (or remove excuses, whatever the case may be).
The point is, we can find reasons to be divided, and we can find reasons to be united. It’s all in what we focus on and what we look for. There are critical issues, monumental issues, and of course I believe in the positions and proposals I espouse, but darn it, there’s more to human society than ‘perfect us’ and ‘evil them’. Can we start acting like it???