Yesterday was election day. And even though the media pundits are proclaiming a wave of big changes, I know that its importance is not in what was decided, but in the fact that it happened at all. The political pendulum is always swinging and whether you are happy with where that pendulum stopped on November 2, 2010 or not, the success is that it keeps changing, adapting to the will – and the whim – of a people who, while sometimes ill-informed, still go out there and believe in making ourselves heard.
Alec turned 18 in September. And true to his Northern California upbringing, he was highly motivated to exercise his civic duty and vote. Since he was little, he has always wondered “why”. Now he had his chance to answer that question. The responsibility was now on him. He took this responsibility seriously. Like most of the rest of his fellow electorate at this time, Alec couldn’t help but think that half of us are crazy. Why else would his fellow citizens advocate positions that so defy his own internal logic, that the only logical conclusion is that they are a bunch of nut cases. That’s the point we’ve come to in this country. Half of you are crazy. Or half of us are crazy. While united in some cases by common history – or at least comparable histories – we’ve come to diametrically opposed positions when thinking about the exact same issues.
I wish it wasn’t so black and white. I wish our politicians would not treat the opposing side as idiots, evil, or both. Hey, we’re all in this together. Or are we?
Anyway, I watched my son go from his excitement of being able to cast his ballot for the first time to his dismay that so many of you didn’t agree with him. Here in California, each election we are faced with such a dizzying array of Props and Measures that it requires real time and effort to decipher what they really mean. And sometimes, even those efforts are not enough. A conscientious voter is faced with contradictory sound bites and commercials that leave us all wondering how to vote. “Citizens for Fair Taxes” urge you to vote for Prop X. I’m for fair taxes. “Responsible Government Now” supports Measure X. Sounds good to me. The names of the supporters and opponents of Props and Measures are a misleading road sign to what would be good – or not – for the citizens of our state. The scary thing: I know that a large number of voters don’t take the time to actually research these red herrings.
My only hope is that just like here, where his mother wanted to take the obligatory photos of her 18 year old voting for the first time, there was a mother in Texas, or South Carolina, or in Ohio, who wanted to take a picture of her 18 year old young Republican. We’re a vital, screwed up, democracy that is constantly trying to tell our leaders how to govern us. That’s a good thing.