Acts of Faith and Finger Foods
What started as a way of poking a friend to do her civic duty has suddenly blossomed into something cool: hell, why not invite all of my friends to do the same? "Come over to my house after you vote," I told them. "We'll have good food and good booze and good cheer. God knows we need it. You just have to present your ballot receipt at the door. Otherwise, we leave you outside in the cold with nothing but a plate of stale crackers and Cheez-Whiz for comfort."
Yes, it's hitting below the belt. I know I should be taking the high road and appealing to their reason, their sense of responsibility. I should be reminding them that large portions of our ancestry didn't get to vote freely, much less vote at all, and that we have that right and that we should exercise it. I try and talk about ballot initiatives and how they affect the taxes they could pay. I try and talk about third parties and campaign finance reform and integrity ... but for now it all boils down to crackers and Cheez Whiz.
It is a little disheartening to think that I have to go to these lengths to get my intelligent, college-educated, highly-paid professional friends to do something as simple as walk into a cardboard booth and punch holes in a piece of paper. But I don't think they grew up in the same house as I did. Voting is a big deal to my parents, to my whole family. I was handed a registration form on my 18th birthday, as was my brother. "There are people in the world who can't vote," I was told. "We don't care who you vote for, as long as you do. Yes, there are disgusting, corrupt people on the ballot. Yes, the way campaigns are run is unfair. But think about the alternative."
I think about the alternative every time I hear news reports of rigged elections in Indonesia and Africa. I think about the alternative every time I think about monarchies, dictatorships, and plutocracies. I think about how my family in Lithuania didn't have free elections until ten years ago, about how people in Serbia demanded their votes be heard for real. I am thinking about the alternative as I prepare the menu for the Election Day party and how I'm glad I already sent in my absentee ballot.
And I'm thinking about how voting needs to change in this country. We see it as drudgery, as a chore. We see it as an exercise in corruption and cynicism. Voting could be so much more than that. I think we're on to something whenever we celebrate our votes. This is a wonderful thing: we choose the people who will represent our views and needs in the state house and in Congress and make sure the country runs. If we don't like 'em, we vote their asses out and let someone else try. This is not something to bemoan; this is something that should have us up and dancing in the streets. We get to vote! Yes! Bring on the beer and pizza! Sound the trumpets and shake the booty! It's Election Day, by God, and we can vote!
I will think about this tonight as my friends and I watch the returns and share in our company. Yes, things weren't great this year, but we did our part for now. Tonight, we are warm and safe and with each other. Tomorrow, the work continues as we harass our representatives and sign petitions. Tonight, though, is a time to celebrate. We took part. We voted. And we aren't in the cold with the crackers and Cheez-Whiz.