In the middle of one of most hectic and stressful weeks in memory for me, I performed what I consider my patriotic duty last Thursday. I walked in, filled out some paperwork and within a few minutes had cast votes for the candidates of my choice in the 2010 primary. Who I voted for doesn’t matter for purposes of this column. To be honest, I had a very difficult time deciding who to vote for in some races and don’t think for a minute it was due to the fact I was overwhelmed with outstanding choices.
Still, while the thought briefly entered my mind, I could not see myself not voting. I read newspaper articles, viewed candidate websites, looked over flyers which arrived by mail and did my best to make an informed decision. (Note to candidates, I did not listen to any of the recorded messages left on my answering machine. Please find other ways of reaching me and trying to obtain my vote than this. Enough already).
Will the candidates I voted for live up to their campaign promises? Doubtful. Many of the ones I voted for will not even win, as I have a long history of picking candidates who finish south of the winning margin.
However, I simply cannot, and will not, allow an opportunity to go by without voting. The reason is simple really. It’s for all the brave men and women who have and who currently represent this country in the military. What would it say about me if I didn’t take the few minutes out of my day, regardless of how stressful or busy, and punch a box on an electronic screen?
What does it say when we think no more about the right to vote than to not even be able to say that election time has arrived? What does it tell these brave men and women who are being asked to make the ultimate sacrifice?
I still remember the first time I was able to walk into a polling place and cast my vote. It was something I had looked forward to for years. In my mind, I could hear music playing. I could see flags waving and balloons being released into the air. It was the way I showed my patriotism.
As I said, it doesn’t matter which candidate I voted for in 1990 or this time in 2010. Taking part in this most American of processes is what living in the land of freedom is all about. I realize politics is not a passion for everyone like it is for me. However, when you consider all the brave Americans who have given their lives for us to have this right then don’t we at least owe it to them?
In so many places in the world, I imagine they would have loved to have gone through the experience I did last week. I drove to my voting precinct, walked in without fear of harm or intimidation and asked to take part in the process. I was not harassed, no one looked over my shoulder to make sure I was voting for the “right” choice and I didn’t leave with fear for myself or my loved ones.
America, despite some minor faults that we can all debate, is still the best when it comes to a process like this. Yes, we’ve had some bumps along the way (the 2000 presidential election being a glaring example) but I wouldn’t trade what we have for anything.
Already I’m looking forward to the next time my patriotic duty calls. I could probably think of any number of reasons not to go from lack of enthusiasm for those running to being too tired from work, but I can assure you I will be there ready, willing and able to do what all Americans should be willing to do.
It pains me and it dishonors our servicemen and women when millions upon millions don’t take part in this process. Think about them and all they’ve sacrificed the next time you decide not to vote, if you find a spare minute to do so.
Chris Bridges is an editor with MainStreet Newspapers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.