Over the past few years, my husband and I have made a lot of short daytrips. In the course of a three-hour drive, one of us inevitably needs to stop for a quick bathroom break. We’ve found our favorite spots: there are some very nice convenience stores and some scattered fast food restaurants that we seem to frequent the most. Yet every time we stop, my conscience gives me an elbow nudge and I feel compelled to buy something. Just a little something. A candy bar we can split, a pack of gum, or a fountain drink to elicit the next need for a bathroom stop down the road. I just can’t seem to use this establishment’s facilities and then not give them some kind of merchandise sales.
I thought of this predicament while watching the political conventions recently. As a history major in college, I was particularly fond of the Early American time period. It was always a humbling experience, studying the historical influences that surrounded the birth of our nation or reading primary documents written by our forefathers and realizing the issues they struggled with while creating the laws that would govern our lands for centuries to come.
Our political parties have become infamously polarized. To stand for one is to completely disregard the other. I often feel like I am involuntarily participating in the children’s game Red Rover while desperately wanting to stand in the middle and plead, “Can’t we accomplish this better together rather than standing on opposite sides trying to court members of the other team?!”
Yet as frustrating as the opposite side mentality makes me, it saddens me, as a result of our nation’s political in-fighting, each and every time I hear someone sigh in desperation and say, “I just don’t think I’m even voting this year.”
That is the most dangerous approach of all. In reality, they have voted with their non-vote. By not going to the polls, you are giving an advantage to one candidate over the other. By not voting you are withholding your voice from the dinner table of our nation’s presidential election discussion.
Not unlike using the convenience store for your own needs, yet not contributing to their bottom line, you are living in a nation of freedoms, yet not contributing to the democratic voice for which it was created.
True, things are not what they used to be. Yet things are not what they could be. As we watch the embassy bombings and the street fights breaking out over voting rights in foreign countries, religious groups bombing opposing religious groups, dictators silencing those that would stand in opposition to their rule – I wonder if we remember the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis.
I have seen various forms of Thankful Lists on Facebook, usually leading up to Thanksgiving or used as a gratitude discipline during Lent. I am going to try a Freedoms Thankful List for the 30 days leading up to election day, November 6, 2012. I invite you to join me and share the freedoms for which you are grateful. I am embarrassed to admit that it might be difficult to compile this list. There are many freedoms that I do not instantly recognize, they’ve been such an integral part of my entire life. But maybe if I take a step back and analyze the freedoms I am honored to enjoy each day, perhaps it will also shed light on the election process and how important it is for me to participate. Perhaps it will encourage me to research carefully the candidate for which I will cast a presidential vote. It also might illuminate some positive and healthy platform issues of the candidate for which I am not voting.
What freedoms do you enjoy?
What freedoms allow you to participate in your daily life? Your profession? Your home life?
Join me. Buy a pack of gum. Take some time to recognize our nation’s freedoms and then cast a vote on November 6. It will make our roadtrip more enjoyable after we stop to be thankful for the things that allow us to live as American citizens.