Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Public Honor

I have done my civic duty (and have the sticker to prove it). Have you?
To give the victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
How fortunate I was to have my eighteenth birthday in the year 1980. With the exception of a school board election or two, I have casted a ballot in every general election since I became eligible.

Two observations which amaze me:
1. I was working in a keno bar in South Sioux City, NE the night President Bill Clinton was elected to his first term of office. I was speaking to a patron who held the opposite political viewpoint than I. While we agreed to disagree (and very politely, I may add), I made the comment that even after over two hundred years, this country is still able to change its leadership in a peaceful manner. It still holds true. To me, this is the greatest testiment to the foresight and faith of our Founding Fathers.

2. The state of Minnesota has been a leader in getting out the vote. They have led the nation in the percentage of eligible voters who have cast a ballot the past few general elections. I shake my head over those who don't bother.
I wrote an article for my high school student newspaper before the 1978 general election. At the time, I commented on the lack of voter turnout in this country compared to others. I think those comments would be as valid today as they were 28 years ago. Why do some other countries have voter participation rates of 60% and greater when we struggle to get 40-50% in the booths?

I don't subscribe to the notion those who don't vote are "voting" for the winner by default. In my opinion, some of the apathy is brought about by the way campaigns are run. Thirty second sound bites and buzz words don't begin to get to the essense of a person's stance on issues. While I don't want to get into nuances, I do want more substance than what I see or hear. Also, I want to know where the candidates honestly stand; I can do the comparing and contrasting myself.

Does part of the apathy come from the attitude of "I am only one vote; mine doesn't matter"? I think it does. My antidote to this malaise is a quote attributed to President Andrew Jackson, "One man with courage makes a majority."

As my parish priest reminded us, God is not to be omitted from the voting booth. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have given us a document regarding our responsibilities on participating in the voting process. It's worth the time to read, even today.

Voting is our greatest privilege and responsibility.

Get your sticker today.