Friday, October 3, 2008

We The People

In my previous post, I was (rather sappily) reminiscing about high school. I loved the free-spirited, albeit self-centered, teenage years and I wouldn’t change my experiences for anything. Well, ok, I do wish I had had a better car than a rust bucket 1974 Ford LTD that refused to start when it rained, but it’s always good to want for the better. It keeps things moving forward.

During that time period, I also had the privilege to sit in the classroom of someone who I consider to be one of the greatest teacher’s ever. I’ve never encountered another like him. His name was Dr. Paul Carlson and he taught US History and Government. He recently passed away after teaching for 50 years at the same school from which he himself graduated. He was brilliant, dedicated and unlike anyone I’ve met before and he kicked Hillary Rodham (future Clinton) out of class once. True story. Why? I don't know, but the man had the patience of a saint, so she musta done somethin'. Just my opinion, of course.

Dr. Carlson adored baseball, treasured every single one of his students (to the point that at our 20th reunion, he not only remembered mine and everyone else’s name, he told me where I sat in his classroom), and he revered United States History and Government.

To say his teaching style was a gift would be to understate it. He had one that broke right through the self-centered/day to day/ who cares/ this is boring mentality of the typical adolescent. He got through and what he taught has stuck with me (and I’m sure the thousands of other students fortunate enough to have learned from him) for life.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, I was feeling a little sentimental yesterday at Homecoming and I had just commented on my friend Damien's blog about the importance of good teachers. Also the other day, I was snooping around the neighborhood in search of two double compound leaves for my daughter (that's another story) while wearing my Barack Obama button, and one of the Desperate Housewives spotted me and my button and told me that she doesn’t vote.

"Why don’t you vote"? I asked. Are you a convicted felon and forbidden to do so? It’s always raining too hard on election day? You hate standing in line to wait your turn? Too busy mini-vanning the kids around? Can’t figure out how to completely punch a chad?

Why wouldn’t an American citizen who has the privilege of voting, not do so and on purpose, nonetheless?

She said she would vote for Obama, but since her husband is going to vote for John McCain, it would just cancel her vote out anyway, so why bother?

I was floored. Why bother participating in something that is a cornerstone of freedom, liberty and democracy? Hmmm.....Geeee......yeah, that’s a stumper, indeedy doo!

First of all, no one’s vote “cancels out” your vote. Your vote counts toward obtaining a majority. It's teamwork, but there’s no way to truly know what the majority of the team believes and wants if the individual players don’t speak.

Secondly, if that’s what you are worried about, inaction is certainly not the answer. If you, like my neighbor, believe in one candidate and you (and everyone else who thinks this way) don’t vote for him, how is he going to get a majority of the votes? The inaction of not voting has just given her husband’s vote, (a vote she doesn’t agree with and may indeed be the minority opinion), more strength because now that candidate is one step closer to majority.

The United States is republic. We elect people to speak for the individuals. But, if individuals don’t vote, how are the people elected going to be representing the majority of the people?

I found this statement in someone's comment section, written before the 2004 election:
Last time around, everything came down to Florida, where Bush's official margin was 537 votes. If any one of Florida's 6 million voters had stayed home, Bush's margin would have been 536 or 538 votes, and he'd still have won. Even if you voted in the most hotly disputed state in the mostly hotly disputed election in American history, your vote did not change the outcome.The writer then compares the chances of your vote "counting" similar to winning the lottery or being murdered by your mother. Well, good or bad, we all know those things happen, right?

The Rock Chick votes on this opinion: ridiculous and shallow. Yes, if one voter stayed home, it would have been 536. But what if those 537 people, or the millions of other individuals who did vote and let themselves be heard, all decided to stay home because they believed their vote didn’t count?

In case you’ve never seen Schoolhouse Rock, The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America goes like this:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I know it’s a lot of words, ideas and goals in one little paragraph, but there are three words that are more important than any of the others.

We The People.

Three little words that mean that the people were creating this Constitution, this government, this set of ideals and beliefs. The United States of America. It is not handed down by God, kings or tyrants. It is ours. It belongs to each and every one of us. The people.

I know at the time of the writing there’s a lot of people that weren’t considered “people” in the minds of our founding fathers and I’m not even going there. You know it and I know it and one day, I truly hope that there is a time in this country where the words of Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” will not only ring with absolute truth, but our posterity, our future will even wonder how mankind could have so been so shallow to require anyone to make a statement as powerful as that in the first place.

The point I want to make about the words is that the beauty of the words in The Preamble to The Constitution is that they go and grow with us, through incredible shallowness and stupidity but also in moments of great triumph and inspiration.

How can we strive toward a consistently more perfect union if we the people do not participate in voting?

At VoteForChange.com, you can register to vote, request to vote absentee and/or check your voting status and locate your polling location. The site is paid for by Barack Obama, and while I’m not denying that I think he is the best candidate, I’m not telling you to vote for him, if that’s not what you believe. I’m just telling you to vote.

Your opinion doesn’t have to be the same as mine. You are entitled to your opinion and, through voting, you are given a way to express that opinion and that, my people, is truly awesome.

Thank you, Dr. Carlson for sharing your wisdom with me. This Senator is indeed not only proud to be an American, but also grateful to understand what it is to be one, thanks to you. And yes, I'm still singing along. Always.

9 comments:

Vixen said...

I agree. 100%.

On a slightly different note: You are the second person today to bring up Schoolhouse Rock. So I will say again: they should bring that show back because it must have worked really well if we all remember all of it this many years later!!!

This Eclectic Life said...

Ok, I'm not one to jump up and down and shout my patriotism. But, you just gave me chills, girlfriend. Awesome post. Thank you for reminding everyone of the power of the people. I wish I could reach you to give you a hug.

Oh wait, you like people to keep their personal distance. Ok, here's virtual hugs....

Dustin said...

Feel the water I'm getting ready to step into? Ouch...it's a little hot!

I really am not trying to start an argument or "heated" debate, but I am genuinely curious...

(And you know I respect you, Jessica, so understand I'm not taking a stab at you here...)

What would you say to someone who genuinely does not support any of the candidates and refuses to vote for the "lesser of all evils"?

Crystal said...

I've always been a voter, but am not this year... not for the presidential election, anyway. Perhaps for things that my vote actually will make a difference for. I don't talk about it all online much because I have chosen to mesh my business online presence with my personal online presence and IMO business and politics just don't mix. :D

I have many reasons for not voting in this election that I have arrived at after lots of consideration, but trust me... it's best to not get me started. lol ;oP

The Rock Chick said...

Vixen: I loved those School House Rock things! I remember they were on in between cartoons on Saturday morning. I wonder if they are still on TV somewhere.

Shelly: thank you and you could hug me anytime!!!!

Dustin: Oh, I'm feeling it a bit and the water's still totally fine. People can and should be able to express their opinions and discuss them without getting into heated arguments. I happen to like when people don't agree with me and are willing to have a discussion because I always learn something new and am better able to understand other's opinions. I will happily answer your question, but I need to know something first.... Is the "lesser of two evils" happening in just one election or is it a constant issue with this hypothetical voter? I think that makes a difference.

Crystal: I agree. If I were in your situation with an online business, I wouldn't be discussing some of the issues that I write about, either. I won't get you started if you don't want to, but I admit, I am curious :)

Dustin said...

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that it's one election (because you never know what's going to happen in the future...unless you're Ms. Cleo!) Let's assume that this hypothetical voter has voted in the past (so it's not yet a trend) but the existing presidential election doesn't have any candidates for whom the voter feels that he/she can, in good conscience, provide the support of a vote.

I was actually having a conversation with someone recently who had their own opinions about the upcoming election. This person was wavering between not voting at all and voting for someone that they knew doesn't stand a snowflake's chance in Hell in winning the election, but whom they actually feel supports what they believe in. This person's reasoning was that even when that candidate didn't win this election they would have support to continue to move forward in politics. On the flip-side, however, they would, in essence, be throwing their vote away because in this election, their vote really would not make a difference.

Ok - Discuss! lol

The Rock Chick said...

Hey Dustin-I'm going to respond by saying that those exact reasons are why people should vote and vote at every single election, even if they are voting for someone that has that snowflake's chance of winning. There's no way to know which parties have more support than they think they do if the people don't speak. I think if more people voted in more elections, we'd see an entirely different and better range of candidates and perhaps more strength in parties other than just the democrats and republicans. I really do.

I do not believe for one second that voting for a candidate who is not likely to win if they are expressing the majority of your beliefs (no one will agree on everything) is not wasting your vote at all!

I think a lot of people do not vote for the reasons you've stated above and if they did, together they might find the voice they are seeking. If they don't, they never will. Nothing will ever change.

Inaction (my opinion of course) is not the answer. The opportunity to speak is through the vote and if you don't, nobody can hear you.

Damien said...

Thanks for this post. I am going to vote this year! I was lazy last time but your post has me fired up! Thanks also for the link!

Malcolm said...

Your story about the DH not voting because hers would be cancelled out by her husband's is the silliest thing I've heard today. If she really believes that, why doesn't she ask him to stay at home on Election Day so that she can vote for Obama?