Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock for, I don’t know, “ever,” you know Tuesday is Election Day here in the U.S. (By the way, if you have been living under a rock, let me know if there’s room for one more.)
By all accounts, this day is one of the most important in our American experience because it’s a day when we can blatantly exercise our right as citizens of a free nation to choose who will represent us at all levels of government; presumably the people we can trust to do the heavy lifting for what lies ahead.
And, days like tomorrow and all those that preceded it every four years going back to when folks elected the likes of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, et. al. should be important to us. After all, we’ll be electing – or re-electing – the person who will lead our country through the next four years, which look like they could be among the most tenuous and pivotal I’ve experienced in my lifetime.
Never before has it seemed like every day, every decision, or even every comment could be critical to what we do, who we are and where we go as a country and as communities.
We’re living on razor-thin margins: between harmony and dissonance, unity and separatism, order and chaos, peace and violence, wealth and poverty, health and sickness. And as I think about it, while the people we choose as our “starting lineup” for the coming years will certainly craft the narrative for what’s next, I’m more concerned – and yes, at times afraid – of how those people will go about it.
How, or if, they’ll work together.
How, or if, they’ll respect one another, or to listen to one another, to the experts, or to us, the very people they work for.
How, or if, they’ll be willing to compromise and look at the bigger picture rather than argue single issues, or parts of issues that simply benefit a special interest or their re-election bid in two, four or six years.
How, or if, they’ll recognize and react to a quickly changing world.
How, or if, they really care about all of us or just their own interests or party affiliations.
In my lifetime, political races and governmental interactions have deteriorated from respectful – albeit heated at times – discourse and discussion to low-road sniping and “dig-your-heels-in-at-all-costs” tactics that do nothing but put the brakes on everything that makes us the UNITED States of America.
Say and believe what you will, but in my mind, we’ve lost our identity. We are not the UNITED States of America. Not today, not tomorrow when the polls officially open, and I’m sad to say not for a while, no matter who’s in office.
Because so many of the things that are happening to this country and our people right now are because of us, not just because of someone who’s sitting in a state assembly office, a congressional chamber or the White House.
In other words, just like politicians and bureaucrats need to look inside their own bodies of government (not to mention, their own souls) to find a way to rebuild things like respect, unity and goodwill, we too, the citizens, need to look inside and be willing to listen, to work together, to compromise and to look at the bigger picture, rather than just the things that immediately affect us.
I’ve heard a lot of talk that it’s our “duty” as Americans to vote. I disagree. When you’re in elementary school, and the teacher asks you to vote for Emma or Nathan as the next class president, that’s a duty. It’s part of your education, and probably, part of your grade.
The thing is, in its pure state, it’s one of the simplest exercises, and we proved that in elementary school: write the name on a piece of paper, fold it, and put it in the box. Then, after recess, the winner’s name will be written on the chalkboard. We’ll congratulate the winner and then move on to something like math or reading.
But in the real world, voting is not a duty; it’s a right and a privilege, one you have to decide if you want to take part in and take seriously, like so many have already in advance of election day.
I wish voting was as easy for us as putting a name in a box and trusting – knowing – that each vote would be counted, and that all would accept the outcome. Unfortunately, it’s not, and that just provides one more reason for us to disagree, to fight and to separate. And, it’s also one more way for us to dig in our heels at all costs.
The beauty of our elections is that we have a choice. But I’ll argue that that right, that privilege, that choice is, in and of itself, just as – if not more – important as who we choose on election day. Because in the end, it’s “we the people,” not the politicians, who must regain our ability, willingness and commitment to again becoming the UNITED States of America.
What I’m about to say may be a longshot, but here goes. Tomorrow, and in the days that follow, let’s all celebrate our freedom to choose, and then, when all the winning candidates are chosen, let’s accept the results, and then work together, as people, to get on with the job of re-uniting our families, our communities and our country, regardless of who’s in office. In my mind, that's our duty.
© 2020 David R. Haznaw