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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Last night I was watching a PBS documentary on the political career of Richard Nixon. I found it quite interesting and fascinating. Most of the information it contained was not new to me, but it was interesting to see it presented in the form of an historical documentary -- complete with lots of old film footage, as well as modern-day interviews with many of the key players from those events of the past.

There's something interesting about revisiting events that happened during my own lifetime, which seem in my mind to be both "fairly recent" and "long ago" at the same time. I vaguely recall the Watergate hearings, as my after-school cartoons were interrupted day after day by Breaking News and Special Reports. To a young boy, this meant that instead of Looney Tunes and Popeye, there were a bunch of serious looking men in suits arguing with other serious looking men in suits.

At that time, I couldn't tell you what it was really all about. But there was one event I still remember with crystal clarity, like it happened just yesterday.

Every summer, my family would pile into our car and drive from our home in Texas to Pennsylvania, where we would spend a week visiting with friends and relatives. The whole thing followed a very predictable pattern -- so much so that we would even stop in the same motels in the same cities each year as we made the journey.

In that year, 1974, I remember stopping at the motel and going through our usual routine of dragging all our stuff from the car to our room, and then getting settled in like usual. My brother and I were running around the room, bouncing on the beds and laughing when my dad switched on the TV. I recognized the man on the screen as President Nixon. His face took up the whole screen, and he looked sad and serious. We continued with our playing for a moment, but as my dad began turning up the volume, he shouted "Listen!", both because he couldn't hear what was being said over our laughter, and because something very serious was happening. We could tell this by the unusual tone in my dad's voice.

I remember stopping what we were doing, and sitting at the foot of the motel room bed, listening to the President's words. "...Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office..."

At 9 years old, I don't think I understood exactly how things had gotten to that point, or what the historical significance of the event was. But I did understand the gist of what the President was doing and saying. And I realized that what was happening was big. Really big.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What I Did for My Summer Vacation This Year, by Chaotic Hammer

I took a vacation from writing blogs (but I did still read blogs). I went running a lot. I did some swimming. I worked a lot. I mowed the lawn a lot. And a bunch of other stuff.

Oh, and I also went with my wife to eastern Kentucky and saw Seth working with the theater orchestra, and saw Amber do an amazing job as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and as Diana in A Chorus Line. It was really neato. And while we were there, we totally relaxed and enjoyed some time away and stuff. I also didn't blog while I was there.

I saved up all the many wonderful experiences and memories from this summer, so that I could blog about them when I started blogging again. And so here I am, blogging again. I wrote this blog post sharing all those things with you. I hope you enjoyed reading about my summer vacation. The end.