Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Early and Often

Since I've been in Tennessee, I've always voted early. I can't imagine not voting early. On every Election Day, the news is full of stories about how many hours people waited in line, what sorts of problems were experienced at various polling places, and how crazy and impatient everyone became.

So today at lunchtime I hopped into the car with my wife, drove about 20 minutes away to our county election office, stood in line for about 10 minutes, presented my driver's license, signed a piece of paper, and was escorted by an election official to a small booth with a computer touch screen. There, I participated in the process. I voted.

It's easy to make critical remarks about how broken this world's systems are, how little my vote seems to matter in the overall scheme of things, how much the politicians have screwed everything up, how much undue influence money has on the system, and on and on. Most people I know, including myself, routinely engage in that sort of discussion. Perhaps we do it because we can, because we're free.

There is a profound and important privilege and duty involved in participating in a system where those who govern do so with the consent of the governed. As much partisan rancor and passionate disagreement as our system entails, at the end of the day, those with less votes accept the results and go back to whatever they were doing before the election, those with more votes assume the responsibility for the office they were seeking, and "we the people" recognize and respect the legitimacy of those who were elected -- whether it was the candidate we voted for or not.

Man, that's pretty cool. Try telling someone living under a fascist dictatorship, or in a land with violent warlords and rampant anarchy, how much you hate it that every couple of years you have to look at campaign signs on the street corners and political commercials on the TV. I bet they'd be happy to trade places with you.

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