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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
You have an opportunity next week – entirely free of charge – to have a direct say in how your government is run and, quite importantly, how your tax money is handled.
It’s not something you should take lightly.
I’ve heard you bicker and fuss, complain about how you believe something is wrong, or how something should have been done differently. I’ve heard and read your frustration over whether someone should decide how you live your life, what choices you make, and what you do in the privacy of your own home.
It’s up to you.
You can moan and groan in the coffee shops, rant online in your social media posts, parade on the sidewalks with cardboard signs, and you can even tattoo your beliefs across your buttocks, but while all these things are certainly noticeable (except perhaps the buttocks bit), they aren’t part of the democratic system.
They are only a product of it.
The system works through your involvement. You have to do your job at the ballot box.
For many of you, this actually requires less effort than painting a sign or making a tattoo appointment. It certainly costs less. We have a law here that makes it possible for you to leave your workplace for a short period of time to cast your ballot at the local polling station. For those of you working too far away from your neighborhood or precinct box, there have been plenty of opportunities over the past couple of weeks to tootle on down to the county courthouse and fill out a ballot ahead of election day. And for those of you who can’t leave the house or who are too far away this month, there are mail-in options available to all.
Have you done this little bit of homework? Have you looked at the roster of candidates who will spend the next few years making decisions on your behalf? Have you educated yourself at all in current affairs or in the issues that affect you the most?
Or have you spent all your free time bitching at complete strangers on your cellphone?
If you are even remotely interested in whether people in Texas should have the right to abort an unwanted child, you should go to the ballot box and support those who will further a policy that meets your preference. If you care in the slightest about whether adults should be able to buy marijuana legally and use it in public places or only at home or before driving a car, you should help make a decision with your vote. If you are a road user and have trouble navigating damaged streets and highways, you should wonder who will use your tax money in ways that benefit you the most in your daily life, and you should vote for them. If you are bothered by what your neighbors do with their partners and think someone should dictate to them with whom they may choose to cavort behind the curtains or to whom they may be bonded in marriage, you should have your voice heard at the ballot box.
You see, these random issues are not on the ballot by themselves, but the people who deal with them daily are. They are the people who run your country, your state and your neighborhood. They are the ones who will make the laws that will shape your culture and your history for generations to come.
You don’t have to vote for a single party. No one is allowed to pressure you into casting a ballot one way or another, and no one is allowed to force you to say how you cast that ballot. No one is allowed to watch you do it, and no one is allowed to take your vote away.
It’s as simple as that.
You can still parade and rant and tattoo all you wish. Those are your rights, too. People fought for them and sometimes died for them.
But you won’t make a real difference unless you do the one thing that keeps true democracy alive.
That simple flutter of paper may be the loudest voice, after all.