Monday, October 20, 2008

Vote for, or Hush

I watched Bill Maher’s latest Real Time over the weekend and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) made a huge impression on me. He calls himself a Social Democrat. His words made a great deal of sense.

So I started thinking about my own voting record. It’s stellar, really, in that whenever I have a chance to vote, I do. I take it as a civic duty and a privilege. I have even voted when I don’t know the candidates; I vote the party line.

But this election has changed the vote for me because I’ve realized that in many presidential elections, since I was old enough to vote, I’ve voted against a candidate not for one. Because of my deep commitment to creating peace on this planet, I can’t vote against any more.

Later I was reading This Week in Peace History (which is much more about war than peace) and came across this quote from labor leader Eugene V. Debs (1865-1926), “I’d rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don’t want, and get it.”

So I took my usual trek to the OED and looked up the verb to vote. Words are amazing. Vote comes from Medieval Latin roots meaning to vow to devote. When we vote, we make a vow, a vow to devote ourselves to communicating with those we elect so that they can actually, truly represent us.

My friend Donna Henes posted a wonderful essay on her MySpace page today called, “Say Something.” In it, one sentence struck me right in the third eye, “Silence forgives violence.” Of course, I loved the rhyme, but more, I loved what it says about our electoral process. If we aren’t saying something to our elected representatives, how can we possibly expect them to represent us?

I’ve added my senators and my representative to my address book in my cellphone. I have their email addresses in my email address book now too. I even know their snail mail addresses if I need them. Do you know yours?

I don’t need to tell you that the presidential election is just around the corner, but I do need to remind you that a vote for what you want is a powerful message. Unless you’re voting for, hush—and let the rest of us get on with the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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