Tuesday, November 4, 2008

the ballot is cast.

Last night I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. with the crazy idea that I’d wake up, dress, have some coffee and be the first in line to vote. It’s good to have high expectations.

The alarm went off and I hit snooze. At 8:50, I was stretching and yawning and yanking my body upright. I dressed. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, grabbed my voter registration card. I drove to a coffee place because I couldn’t convince c. to wake up and make me some coffee (Yes, I’m spoiled that way, and it’s something I’ll tell grandkids about, mine or other people’s).

Then I drove to the school where I thought I was supposed to vote. Wrong place. The man directed me to the right school. I drove there.

As soon as I entered the neighborhood, I had this glee swell up inside of me. My windows were down. The air was cool. Someone was strolling his kid down the street. The houses were charming and friendly instead of intimidating. I want to live in this neighborhood. I want to always vote in this neighborhood. Somehow, even with its xeriscaping, it reminded me of my favorite Baton Rouge neighborhoods, reminded me a little bit of home and security. Everything wasn't exactly what I'd hope for, but it still felt good and right.

When I pulled up in front of the school and parked, “Beast of Burden” played on the radio. I sat and listened. Then I stepped out of my car, walked up to the building and I voted. It felt really good to vote. Why is that?

After, I got back in the car, and there was a news clip playing. A woman being interviewed was saying how she was abstaining from voting because she didn’t believe either of the candidates would do what they said they would. Then the news story moved on to discussing votes for 3rd party candidates.

I felt a little disgust rise inside of me. Maybe it’s really un-democratic of me, but it’s what I felt. I’ll feel more disgust with all of those third party voters and abstainers if McCain ends up in the white house.

Eight years ago, I voted for Ralph Nader because I was so utterly dissatisfied with my options. Today, I realize how myopic my own thinking was at the time. Today, I think it’s myopic to vote purely on deeply personal principles. I wonder what to make of myself? I heard the woman on the radio today say that she thinks McCain and Obama are the same vote. Eight years ago I thought Gore and W were the same vote. Myopic. That’s what I think now.

Today, I look back, and wonder – what a different situation we might be in if Gore had been president when 9/11 occurred? What an entirely different state of affairs may have ensued.

Casting a vote ought to be far from selfish, far from myopic. Voting for a president is considering and weighing in on the big picture, the majority of people, larger belief systems, larger principles.

It’s good to have high expectations. But sometimes, simply getting a task done without complete failure is the best there is - the thing to be happy about. If we're lucky, there will be surprises along the way instead of dread and shock. I hope one day I will move into that perfectly imperfect neighborhood.

Here is the best I can do at articulating my thoughts at this moment.

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