I'm too old to Trick-or-treat, but I am eligible to celebrate that other autumn holiday with the free giveaways: Election Day. This Super Tuesday will be the fourth year that I've been able to vote and the second time I've made it to the polls to collect my "I Voted!" keepsake sticker. As a veteran of this political process, I can tell you that voting feels better than I'd imagined and that the adhesive on those stickers is surprising powerful. I enjoy voting so much, I'd like for you to join me in this most precious civic responsibility.
While as a "non-voter" you normally don't participate in elections, I still hope to see you in line at the polls because 1) that's where you go to vote 2) voting is important 3) voting is fun 4) and as the cool people at MTV say "Vote or Die," right? 5) Right.
I'm not going to force political participation on you, you non-voters with your counter-culture sensibilities, your blue hair and your youth. But as the Los Angeles Times suggests, you all are mightier than the sum of your disengaged parts. Making up an approximate 60% of the eligible voting population, non-voters are the all-too-silent majority of Americans.
What went wrong with you, non-voters? When did you sour on democracy? Let me remind you that my great-grandfather immigrated from the Old Country, risking the high waters of the Atlantic and hiding his glaucoma from the medical inspectors at Ellis Island, just so he could be part of an old-fashioned democracy. So what if the mob bosses bought his vote the first few go rounds? He needed the money, and eventually he'd get his free and fair election. But he knew, as did anyone who once struggled for freedom, that Americans are the luckiest people on the face of Earth. Who are you to disagree?
People and media sources have pegged you as apathetic, lazy and more interested in Internet memes on tumblr than in the things that they have decided actually "matter": like wars, economic reform, and who will walk off The View next. (My money's on a repeat Joy Behar performance, but like an Ohio congressional race, it's a real toss-up.)
True, apathy is a natural response to the circus that is electoral politics. This year's candidates seem like crazy characters on an alternative reality show, like "Dancing with the Lunatics" or the "Amazing Race for the Delaware Senate Seat" or "The News Hour with Rand Paul!" Sometimes it's easier and more appealing just to tune them all out, or break the cable box in frustration. I understand.
In that regard, perhaps you are right that "one vote won't change a corrupt system" and that "what one person does hardly matters in the scheme of things." But when you fall from your unsteady perch on that high horse, you'll come to your republican senses. You'll realize that maybe it is naive to cast a vote thinking you'll affect real systemic change, but doing so is what makes you part of this wonderful nation and binds you to your fellow countrymen and women.
Voting is part of the informal agreement you have with a government that protects and defends (many of) you. Unless you routinely break traffic laws, or are delinquent on your taxes, or take out some suspicious how-to books from the library, the government almost never even bothers you. Uncle Sam doesn't ask for much, just the five minutes or so once a year that it takes for you to vote.
To be frank with you, I'm surprised by the phenomenon of the young non-voter, the millenial who can't be bothered to check a box that isn't an online surveymonkey.com request. I refuse to believe that a group of people so creative and innovative and good-looking -- or at least that's how they appear in The Social Network -- could so cavalierly surrender the right and privilege of voting.
So please, young and old, go ahead and vote. At the least, think of how you can tease your underage siblings and illegal immigrant pals: you got to vote, and they're still just living on the margins. Revel in your legal status and lucky citizenship in this fine country.
It's the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and from my voting family to yours -- Happy Election Day!
Follow Ilana Ross on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Laniro47