When I was a child, my teachers taught me the glorious and grand history of democracy and how lucky I was to live in a country that gave me a voice (or would give me a voice when I was old enough). They taught me about government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Those teachers never once warned me of the hellish nightmare of living in a swing state: the incessant explosions of ringing phones delivering poisonous recorded messages, the bullet-like constant barrage of nasty television advertisements, the wreckage of campaign signs littering the side of the road.
Last night, George received a phone call that almost made me change my vote. It was so nasty and ugly and inflammatory that my blood pressure is still up this morning. I want to find the man who spoke to my husband and dope-slap him on the back of the head and make him read relevant passages of Emily Post out loud repeatedly until he will never again use language like that on the phone. Then, I'd like to find the candidates on whose behalf he spoke and line them up in chairs and wag my finger in their faces for an hour.
Then, perhaps, I'll feel better. Perhaps.
This figurative war zone of Ohio (and similar zones in Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin) finds peace at 7:30 this evening. Whatever the outcome, we, the people of Ohio, will no longer be under attack by politicians trying to wrestle our vote from us.
Throughout this ridiculous war, which has gone on far too long and cost far too much, I've thought about a woman I know who has never voted. She lives right here in Ohio and has lived here all her life. She was born here. She is a citizen of the United States of America.
And she has never voted, says she never will vote. It's pointless, she thinks. Her vote is just one, and meaningless. Besides, all the politicians are power-hungry, blood-sucking parasites and she sees no point in voting for any of them.
She has never voted, people, and she can. It's her right. Her responsibility. Her honor and privilege.
But she won't exercise her right. She won't.
My reaction to her attitude is as visceral as my reaction to that phone call last night. How can she abdicate her responsibility so carelessly? How can she disregard the lives given in the establishment and defense of this country's democracy and freedom? How can she take that blood shed on her behalf for granted? How can she walk away from the most amazing political system in the world, a system others are currently dying--quite literally dying--to enjoy?
I don't get it.
No human institution is perfect. Democracy isn't perfect. The United States government isn't perfect. The education system isn't perfect, nor is the health care system, immigration, the tax code, trade, the military, foreign policy, the court system, and so on. These systems never will be perfect, but the knowledge that every single one of those elected officials owes us for his or her power means something. It means something huge. It means the difference between blood-sucking parasites who annoy us and all-powerful dictators who turn us into mindless, voiceless victims.
My elementary school teachers were right: democracy is the best gig going, has been the best gig since Athens got it all started two-and-a-half thousand years ago. Consider the alternatives. Care to move to North Korea? The chaos of Syria? Vladimir Putin's Russia or any of the other countries that pay nominal homage to democracy yet are so rife with corruption and abuse that people can't speak or vote their conscience or even complain without risking their lives?
As annoying as our swing-state war zone is, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
If you are a citizen of the United States, Get. Out. And. Vote.
Please. I promise you. It means something. Something huge.