Ah, Election Day! A day in which we ordinary citizens engage in a privilege secured for us by people who fought long ago, and kept safe for us by others who have fought in the meantime and who stand ready to do so today. It is an important day for people who live in a republican democracy, as we elect our officials and speak out on some issues directly before us.
We're often told that our participation in voting sends a message. Different people suggest different messages and different audiences.
To people of other nations, perhaps new to the idea of actual citizen participation in government, we send a message that shows how this is supposed to work: People make their choices, the ballots are totaled, and those who win the election take office while those who leave office do so peacefully and with at least some good will for their successors.
To younger people of our own nation, we send a message that shows how citizenship brings with it some responsibilities along with the privileges we like to enjoy. Speaking out may be important and sharing opinions may be important, but the actual casting of a ballot is the only action with guaranteed results -- even if we don't care for the results that come from the ballots all those other people cast.
To dictators who rule with iron fists out of fear that their own people might depose them if given the chance, we say, you are right to fear. With the snap of a counting machine long-standing personal empires of power and privilege disappear as people do that most human of things: change their minds. The ballot box ignores seniority in office, committee chair positions, businesses and people who owe someone a favor and everything else in the face of simple math: 50 percent plus one means hasta la vista, baby.
But most important of all as I consider it is the message our voting sends to the office holders and candidates whose names are on the ballots. The people who have sapped our phone minutes with robocalls. The people who have stuffed our mailboxes with campaign literature that used to be beautiful trees. The people whose television, radio and online ads filled every available nook and crevice like a foul sludge. The people who told us that they embodied all of the best of the wisdom of the great founders of our nation almost as though they were those very founders raised again to walk the earth. The people who told us that although they were not here to go negative, they did feel it was important to ask why their opponents could produce no evidence that they never played foosball with the bleached skulls of shelter puppies.
And the message we send to half of them is this: Leave us alone, and go get a job. To the other half we say: Leave us alone, and get back to work. After some six months or more of listening to them, we are finally able to make them listen to us, and it is a wonderful feeling indeed.