"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." - Plato
I voted today. I always vote. Next to getting my driver's license, it was the single most important opportunity given to me at the age of 18. I learned however, that politics can very easily divide us. I was 18. A group of very nice Republican pollsters showed up at our home for a local election, and told me I couldn't sign the petition they offered because I was decidedly "Democratic." I heard my mother jokingly tell my father, "Eddie, we have a traitor in the family!" I realized then, that belonging to a particular party was too limiting. I didn't want to be pigeon-holed. It has never been my style. A political party was not going to define me or my decisions. Voting would achieve that or so I believed. But hey, it was the 70's, and we were still relatively innocent and altruistic...well I was. At the given moment, I had to pick a party so I did. I didn't think for one second that it limited me. I still don't. Voting shouldn't be a limiting activity. That's the beauty of a democracy.
My interest in politics came earlier than 18 however. I was in 8th grade and was convinced by my friends to run for class president. I ran. Posters plastered around the school. I developed a platform speech. I spoke to my entire class. Another classmate ran against me. He was quieter, smarter and well, he had fewer posters and I could tell it was harder for him to speak to his classmates. It was harder for him to make friends too as I found out. I loved every minute. Clearly, he didn't. But that didn't make him any less able to be elected. I spoke to everyone I could. I did, yes, I did shake hands with as many kids as I could. He did not. I won the election. When the votes came in and saw this boy's face, I realized the price to be paid for winning. By the time we reached high school, this boy had committed suicide. We were 18. We had the entire world at our feet. Our dreams, our goals, our adult lives were ahead of us. I was popular. He was smarter. When someone loses, we never really know what they could bring to the table, do we? This is the reality of politics. History in the making and the shaping of our destiny and personal well-being are determined with time. This is all the more reason to vote.
Politics is a continual experiment in popularity. To become elected, a politician has to sell the public on their ideals, their goals, their beliefs. If we can relate to what they are communicating to us, we vote them into office History tells us that although we have fought for every single freedom we have, we pay a price for our decisions. All the more reason vote intelligently.
Today, decades later, I don't vote with popularity in mind. I vote my conscience. I learn as much as I can about the candidates and make a decision based on their decision-making, not on their rhetoric. I care about their mind and their ability to work for the common good. It's not a popularity contest for me. Sometimes it's a comedy of errors and I find that amusing but for the most part, we need "thinkers" in office like my classmate. Candidates need to show common sense not dogma. Candidates need to have acute listening skills and make decisions that will promote sanity not stupidity. We not only need to embrace the winners, we need to embrace the losers too because they used their voice. They made us think and they challenged us at our core.
I voted today with the very best of intentions. Let's hope the winners act with the same idea in mind. It's not a popularity contest. It's history...ours.