THE BLOG

Democracy's Miracle

11/06/2012 09:31 am 09:31:45 | Updated Jan 06, 2013

I witnessed a miracle Tuesday morning. I did not have an epiphany or experience any type of revelation or reckoning. Rather, like millions of other Americans I walked into a polling place -- not unlike thousands across this country -- and in the privacy of a booth, cast a ballot for the candidates of my choice. I was not administered a literacy exam like African-Americans were many years ago, nor was I charged a poll tax to cast my vote. No one was in the booth with me nor was I questioned by police after voting to ensure that I had voted for the "correct" candidate. There were no tanks in the streets or barricades around the South Elementary School in Cedar City, Utah -- just pleasant volunteers who thanked me for coming and gave me an "I Voted" sticker.

What I witnessed first-hand one of the many miracles of our American democracy. My vote counted every bit as much as Bill Gates' or Andrew Luck's or Lady Gaga's or any number of millionaires, sports stars or pop icons. My vote matters just as much as that of the President of the United States and it is my right to send him back to Chicago or to give him four more years as our Commander-in-Chief. What a privilege and yet, what a responsibility.

This right to cast a ballot, without coercion or consequence to my life or station, has been secured by the sacrifices of men and women who laid down their lives to give me this privilege. Our country has not always granted this right to all of its citizens: for years, blacks and women could not voice their opinion via the ballot. Today, every man or woman -- regardless of race, personal creed, orientation, size, shape or status -- has the right, as an American citizen, to do something which many in the world cannot. As I tell my students at Southern Utah University, our amazing Constitution has only been amended 27 times since its ratification in 1787 and one of those changes enables them, all 18-year-olds, to enjoy a right denied to billions all over this planet.

My religious faith, inculcated in me by my family and my experiences in life, teaches me that agency is a gift from God. The ultimate violation of this right is to force someone to believe or to act or to vote contrary to his or her own personal persuasions and convictions. Personal beliefs are entirely subjective -- one can choose to act or not to act, choose to believe or not to believe. These are, as Thomas Jefferson described, the inalienable rights conferred -- not by governments or magistrates or kings or armies -- but by our Creator. And it is our right to remove governments and their leaders who dare to infringe on these rights. My right as an American is to stand up for what I believe, to express these beliefs in the forum of public debate and discourse. I can also disagree -- without being disagreeable or begrudging the right to differ to those who do not share my convictions or beliefs.

What, then, is the ultimate responsibility of you and me as American citizens, as beneficiaries of the greatest form of government ever devised by man?

It is to take a stand and to voice our opinions. It is to represent something, to leave neutral ground, to try and make a difference. It is to register, to cast our ballot and to make our voice heard. Casting a ballot serves to cast out indifference. Consider these words from Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize:

Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony. One does something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. . . Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end.

I tried, in my own small and seemingly insignificant way, to say "no" to indifference by walking into that polling station. I did not take up a rifle or charge up a hill or lead a revolution. Thousands before me have done these acts and more to enable me to do what I did at daybreak Tuesday morning. My obligation is to be worthy of this right -- conferred by our Creator as I pursue life, liberty, and happiness -- but secured by a government in which I place my trust as a citizen. What an amazing feeling. What a miracle.