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Voting in America August 7, 2010

Posted by Joe in People, Politics.

A couple of days ago, I went to the polls to cast my ballot in our local elections and state-wide primaries. I view voting as a civic duty and responsibility. Every citizen has the right, nay the obligation, to help select the person that he believes will best represent his beliefs and interests in our great republic. If you consciously choose not to exercise that right, you are forfeiting a powerful opportunity to help shape our democracy. But that’s another great thing about out country: it’s your choice. You can choose to sit on the sidelines if you wish.

An Imperfect System

Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947). I’d have to agree with that sentiment. The are lots of imperfections in our system of government. You don’t have to look far to recognize them.

For example, consider one person, one vote.

In every election there are well-informed people who study the issues and the candidates, who carefully considered the specifics and the larger picture, and finally reach a carefully formed conclusion on who they believes is the right person for the job. They take their civic duties seriously.

On the over hand, in every election there are people who enter the polls that have never heard of the candidate’s name before. They haven’t studied the issues; they are making their selections based solely on the name of the candidates. “I’m not voting for that Williams fellow; he’s probably kin to that kid in sixth grade that stole my lunch money.” Or, “Gomez sounds like a foreigner to me; he should go home.” Or equally bad, they make their selections based on race, or gender, or something else that has no relevancy.

Yet in both of these cases, the decisions of the votes of those individuals carry the exact same weight when voting level is pulled. The person who has carefully weighed the factors has the same impact on the election as the one who make his choice without any regard to the issues.

Is that good? Is that what our founding fathers intended? Not really, yet on some level it is.

A Hope Continued

How can anyone except for the person casting the ballot know how and why he is voting. It can’t be done. And even if it could be done, who would set up the commission to determine who has a right to vote and who doesn’t? The voters? Elected politicians? I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t want anyone telling me that my vote would carry more or less weight than another due to the way they perceive my decision-making and consideration of the issues. That’s not democracy. That’s the facade. It’s only a veneer of democracy with tyranny lurking just beneath the surface.

So even though my vote may be cancelled out by someone who’s never heard of a candidate, I’ll carry on making my decisions. I’ll keep hoping that the majority of people will study the issues before casting their ballots and that this country will be led by the individuals we’ve consciously and intentionally elected.


A Handshake And A Smile At The Dump August 4, 2010

Posted by Joe in People.

Late yesterday afternoon, I took a break from my busy work day to take our trash to the drop off station a few miles down the road. That’s one of the nice things about working at home: you can check off a couple of items from your honey-do list while taking a mental break from work.

The trash really needed to go. It wasn’t that I had a large quantity to take, rather it was the quality of trash that necessitated its departure. I’ll spare you the odiferous details; suffice it to say it was offensive. The combination of contents and extreme August heat created a concoction that could rival any smell.

So, donning some work clothes that I didn’t mind parting with if permanently contaminated with an odor and some work gloves, I set out for the dump.

Our drop off station is frequently manned by a nice older fellow whose name I don’t know. He doesn’t know my name either but we always have a pleasant conversation about the weather or some such. He’s usually supervising at least one teenager that begrudgingly helps toss my trash into the giant compactor. The teenagers are there working off their community service hours as prescribed by a local judge for some act of stupidity perpetrated by them.

Yesterday was different though. As I pulled into the station, I noticed that my normal acquaintance was accompanied by a second gentleman in his mid-50’s. “Sad,” I thought as I pulled in, ” I wonder what landed him in this predicament.”

But as I got out of my truck, I immediately realized that this was not ordinary time-server. No, he gladly strolled out to the bed of my truck and started unloading the stinky trash. He asked how I was doing and commented about the heat of the day. I could tell he had been there for a while. His shirt was soak through with sweat and his face red.

Before I left, I learned that the man working so hard in the blazing sun that August day was running for County Commissioner in my district. His name was David Romain and rather than meeting people at restaurants or banks, he was lending a helping hand at the local trash drop off station – a good place to meet a broad cross-section of our community.

I don’t know much about his politics, but I’ll do a little research tonight before casting my ballot tomorrow. I respect a man who’s willing to roll up his sleeves and do the hard and unpleasant jobs, a man who is a servant leader.

Did I fall for his tactics? Maybe. Would he have kissed a baby if I’d brought one? Probably.

If he’s elected, only time will tell if he’s any different than the majority of the politicians that “represent” us. But for now, he’s sparked a glimmer of hope in me that maybe he’ll be little different.