{why i vote: the irrational season}

Thursday, the downstairs sink flooded, twice. The plumbers – two men with big boots – tromped gunk on the stair carpet, which needs to be cleaned. Today, Maya Thompson, to use her Starbucks name, is coming by to stay until Monday. We still don’t have a washer (next week!) so I must schlepp loads of soaked towels to Mom’s; the last four Fuji apples are going slightly soft, which means they need to be diced and turned into a quick apple cake which is okay for the both the vegans and the omnivores, and there are four gigantic boxes yet in the garage to unpack, my fabric remnants – victims of the downstairs flood – to unbox and wash before they mildew. This is not to mention the other weekend chores of chiropractic appointments, choir rehearsal, raking the front, making an altar arrangement for church, and bringing cans to the food drive.

This is also not to mention the 143 books only read by one person on the Cybils list, plus the 95 books read by no one yet at all, plus my revision, on which I am slightly stuck, which I really need to finish by the 17th, latest. Which, with the aforementioned reading stack, I may not do. Which annoys me.

Oh. My. Gosh. I do NOT have time to sit down and decipher all of the electoral paperwork. I don’t have time to read the doublespeak and triple takes, and the dubious linguistic looping of proposition amendments and the perky bios on various district representatives, eager for my vote. I don’t have things to do. I don’t have time to vote. And, why should I? Psychologists tell us that voting is completely irrational. Statistically, an individual vote makes very little difference – and it’s personally time-consuming to register and do all of the rigamarole to get the right paperwork or the right polling place. I’m over-scheduled and grumpy, and I don’t have time…but I will make the time. Why? Well, I’ve given that some thought, and come up with roughly four reasons:

  • I vote, because…I can read. My literacy is an immense gift; in a state where once upon a time public school was the ideal so that everyone could learn, today there are so many impediments toward people getting to school that 14% of my community is lacking in basic prose skills. I didn’t receive my education in a public school setting, but I support the right and privilege of those who do. I also support libraries as bastions of public knowledge. My votes protect these things,
  • I vote, because…I can disagree with the way my country is run. I hate some of what is done, in the name of big, glad-handing, we’re-number-one, jingoistic American interests. We are the world’s scariest friends, the world’s worst bullies, the world’s nosiest neighbors (and if you tell me to take my opinion and go back to the UK, so help me). I have some very harsh opinions, I’m DEEPLY cynical and suspicious and judgmental and yet, I have the right to these opinions and judgements, because This. Is. My. Country. And it’s my right to love it enough to hope that it changes, and to speak up, and MAKE IT change in the best way I can. And I support your right to do so, too,
  • I vote, because…I can embrace our differences, knowing that we hold some truths that are the same. We The People are from various walks and ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds and ages – and thus we come at fact or falsehood or a piece of legislation (sometimes the same thing) from different directions. Our greatness is in shared perception, and shared participation. We are a unique voice because of the powerful societal norms which push us out of our comfort zones and into the arena of sometimes harmonious, other times fraught and dissonant opinion. Our very inability to walk in lock-step is what makes us a uniquely and intriguingly special group. It also makes us exasperating, obstreperous, faithful, thoughtful, dangerous, mouthy, brilliant, eager, impatient, and really, really emo. I see this now more than ever, having lived abroad for five years and been regarded as a crazy person for much of that time. We are a bunch of loose cannons pointed in sixty-million different directions, and yet we can live together without killing each other too often. Participation really does make democracy work – and Americans are all about getting in there, and getting our hands onto something, even if it’s the completely wrong end of a thing.
  • I vote, because…I can. Yes. I can. Voting is both privilege and gift, and obligation, for someone whose ancestors were slaves and Native peoples, and whose chattel status prevented them from being thought of even as human. It is a right that is too often taken for granted in my age group, and in my country. Somewhere, people have sent out the wrong dates and times or polling information, to communities filled with first generation Americans, because they don’t want their voices. Somewhere, those who haven’t paid their child support or back taxes are frightened into believing that their voices aren’t worthy to be heard. Elsewhere, women are silenced; in other nations, disputed religions or tribal affiliations are an impediment to voting polls, and in some places, there is simply dictatorship, and no choice. But here, in this country, we have the right to our speech, our choice, and our mistakes, and these amendments are written into law. Here we’re going to celebrate our Four Freedoms, and add eight more. It’s our privilege! But, more than that, it’s our right. Let’s step up and take our chances.

Perhaps these aren’t as patriotic of reasons, or as coherent of reasons as you would choose for voting. In many ways, democracy – politics – you name it – is both incoherent and unpatriotic – full of greed and bad intentions. However, in many ways, it comes down to that same irrational response psychologists warn us about – I just want to do my bit to change my world, to do my part to support truth and righteousness — which is a big laugh, putting those words in the same sentence as politics. But then, je suis American. Maybe irrational is as good as it gets.


This is a non-partisan party; others will be pondering and posting about this today. Colleen’s got the round-up @ Chasing Ray. Don’t miss Justin’s piece @ babble comics, which make me both snort-laugh and wince; also, Mr. Elzey is talking about the one time he didn’t vote, which takes a lot of courage, in a way – talking about it, I mean. Not voting is bone-headed, and he agrees. Anyway, more links as power outages and people’s thought processes make them available. Happy Friday; remember to vote.

3 Replies to “{why i vote: the irrational season}”

  1. “and really, really emo” made me laugh.

    I come from immigrants, and when I was growing up, the family drilled into me that voting is a privilege and responsibility. My grandparents and great-grandparents took risks and sacrificed and worked so very hard so that I could be a well-educated citizen of this country who has this option. Every time I vote, I feel like I’m honoring their work and hopes and dreams, and I just love that.

  2. is it really courage to own up to my stupidity? hmm. i’ll take it!

    what would have really been courageous, and i toyed with the possibility, is telling my story about the 2000 election and how i accidentally helped bush win. me, alone. i’m that guy.

    please don’t hate me.

  3. Rational or no, those are excellent reasons to grapple with the registration, trying to decipher the voter guide and figuring out in which precinct one is allowed to cast that ballot. I did a mail-in ballot for years, but while in grad school, I ended up walking to the polling place and there was just something so righteous (?) about the feeling of standing in line with fellow citizens and physically voting on Election Day that I am going to repeat it this year.

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