Saturday, November 1, 2008

Take your place in history's parade: Vote

(Originally published 11/1/08)

Over the past 21 months, have you fallen into a lull and let all the political noise fade into the background?

Considering the commercials that have blanketed television over the past four weeks, tuning out is more of an adaptive survival skill than anything.

But this campaign, which feels like it’s been going on forever, will end –- and it will end in something very concrete.

The winner of next week’s presidential election will hold your lives and your livelihoods in his hands for the next four years.

Americans of all stripes, with backgrounds as diverse as we are, will join Tuesday in one of the common civic duties that ensures the survival of our way of life: We’ll go to the veterans’ halls, recreation centers, churches, temples, schools and other polling locations around our communities to choose the leaders we wish to serve us in local, state and federal office.

It all comes down to this. I hope you’re planning to take part.

On past election days, I have occasionally encountered people who shared with me that yes, they plan to vote, as long as they have time/there aren’t long lines/it isn’t raining/they can get a good parking spot, etc.

In short, they are willing to cheapen -– or throw away altogether –- their right to vote based on convenience.

I struggle to understand people like this.

Barack Obama’s historic candidacy has amazed many older African-Americans who remember the time when they were refused the ballot.

If you read Mary Belk’s column in this paper on Wednesday, you know what the women of the suffrage movement paid for their rights –- and the rights of their daughters and granddaughters and all who came after –- to have a say in the stake of their future.

White men aren’t immune from being denied their constitutional rights. Not so long ago and just 30 miles from where the Opelika-Auburn News was printed this morning, men were beaten and bloodied for daring to show up at the polls to support candidates who spoke out against the corruption and graft that was swallowing Phenix City whole.

It wasn’t convenient or easy for them, but people in each of these groups stood up and fought in their time so that you can stand up without a fight on Tuesday.

Vote. Don’t let anything get in your way. Take your children with you if you can. Talk with them about the process and why your vote matters.

And yes, it does matter. When you lean over the sacred luxury that is your secret ballot, secured for you by those patriots who gave of themselves so you would have the ability to express your desires for the leadership of your country, do not dishonor their sacrifice by casting a throwaway vote. Your vote is only one, but it is yours. Do not compromise your principles for the sake of party or cast your ballot out of disgust more than desire. You control the validity of your vote; don’t dilute it for any obligation beyond your own civic responsibilities as an American.

You owe your forebears and descendants -– and yourself -– that much.

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