Saturday, November 1, 2008

My faith. My vote.

I've already voted. I mailed my absentee ballot a few days ago.

I don't want to talk about who I voted for, or who I think you should vote for. I just want to say thank you, America, for being here. Thank you for being a place where I can make a choice.

In my town (La Honda, California) we had a school board election that was a tie. The winner was determined by drawing straws. I wonder how many people didn't go to the polls that election day thinking their vote wouldn't make a difference.

My vote for president will be only 1/200,000,000th of the total vote, so probably the presidential election won't come down to a drawing of straws. My vote won't change the outcome of the big elections or change anything at all in a physical way. But my vote counts. It matters in a spiritual way. My vote is my expression of faith in Democracy, just as attending church is an expression of faith in one's religion. It's a ritual for me. It makes me feel good.

Two of my grandparents were immigrants to the USA. They arrived at Ellis Island seeking economic and social opportunity. They had political freedom of sorts in their old country, but they were strictly limited in what jobs they could hold or what people they could associate with. In their old country they were limited in how much schooling they were allowed. This is one of the least-talked-about freedoms in America: The freedom to learn. So in America they met new people, a vast polyglot of people. They made new friends and found new jobs and sent their children to school. They put their children through college in the midst of the Great Depression even though they had never attended college themselves, even though they were unemployed for part of the time.

My other two grandparents came from families that had been in the USA since before it was the USA. My grandmother's family came to the Massachusetts Colony escaping religious persecution in England. My grandfather's family came to New York in 1688 after their religion was banned in France (they were Huguenots). Their children fought in the Revolutionary War. Their grandchildren migrated west in step with Daniel Boone.

When I vote, I am expressing the will of my grandparents, the will of my entire family history. I'm celebrating freedoms we seem to take for granted: freedom to choose your job, your social circle, your education, your religion or even your lack of religion. And one more freedom: The freedom to move on. When your country is going down the wrong path, you can vote to change it. You shouldn't have to uproot yourself and move across an ocean when you can fix what's wrong with enough votes, enough common sense from enough people. You can mend this country right where you are. You can vote.

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