Tuesday, October 28, 2014

To Vote or Not to Vote November 4th? What's Your Excuse?

“By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy - indifference to whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction.”--William Osler

            The dog ate my homework.  No. Really!

            That’s the classic excuse in the rationalization hall of fame. Excuses: reasons we give for not doing something that we know we should have done. A promise. A duty.  A commitment.  At work: we miss a meeting. At home: we blow off a chore.  In sports: we drop the ball.  In love: we forget a birthday. Being human, afraid to fess up, we fudge the truth and offer an excuse.

            Not ever having a dog, I can’t use that excuse.  No problem. Excuses for not getting the job done abound. Technology excuses: I never saw the email.  My computer crashed.  My phone’s been acting weird.  Memory excuses: I forgot. Didn’t write it down.  Been busy. If all else fails try misdirection. Gee you look nice today. And how ‘bout those Patriots?!  We can obfuscate all we want but finally, maybe the best policy is to just tell the truth. 

            So…what’s your excuse going to be for not voting vote in the election November 4th? 

            You see chances are very good that a majority of Americans won’t bother to cast a ballot next week and not just because it is a mid-term election.  Americans like to imagine themselves as worldwide leaders in democracy but the fact is we are mediocre in the civic responsibility department. Also rans.  Compared to other democracies we kind of stink.  No other way to put it. Less than 40 percent of eligible U.S. voters will vote the first Tuesday of November and that places us far behind many of the world’s democratic peoples: Germany, Japan, Belgium, Australia, Canada, etc.  If democracy were a class America would get a solid C-.  

            What’s your excuse? 

            Cynicism is popular.  It’s chic to trash our government. Complain that politicians are all the same. Money has corrupted the process. One vote doesn’t make a difference. I’m staying home.  Sorry—that’s lame. It’s a cover for civic laziness.  How about this?  No vote. No voice. No right to whine about our country.  Democracy belongs to those who show up and participate. Consider Hong Kong, where thousand of protesters are putting their lives on the line to secure the right to one person, one vote.  Angry about your government? Then vote.

            “I’m too busy!” many will say.  Too busy to register. Too busy to know the issues and candidates. Too busy to get to the polls. Bologna.  If we can plop down on our backsides to watch “The Good Wife” or “The Walking Dead”, update Facebook, text endlessly, and play Farmville online, we can find 30 minutes to vote.  Too busy?  Nope.

            The one excuse which does not cut it in 2014 is that there is not much at stake in the election.  Try these issues.  Control of the United States Senate.  Casinos in Massachusetts. Sick leave for workers. You want more? Global warming. Student debt. Health care.  War and peace.  Your kid’s future.  Your future.  Elections matter.  Elections determine what we will do as a nation, a state, a region, and a town. To think otherwise is foolhardy and shortsighted.  Your vote counts.

            So VOTE!

Because by not voting, not being an active and engaged citizen, not caring about the freedoms secured by the sacrifice of others, an apathetic citizenry gets the government it deserves. Absolutely. In the words of the American philosopher Robert Maynard Hutchins, "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment".

Still I still hope for something better, something more from my fellow citizens.  As  Boston patriot Samuel Adams declared in 1781, “Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote he is…executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”

To vote. To not vote.

What’s your excuse?

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