Thursday, October 26, 2006

Encouragement to Exercise

I sent in my ballot today -- filled in with a number two pencil and sealed up in a manilla envelope for my absentee participation in the great American democracy.

Some might call me a patriot... Some might call me a starry-eyed idealistic fool... But I just say I'm doing my job. Playing my part. Exercising my right -- for whatever it's worth.

I'll be the first to admit that I have my doubts. I've kept no secrets about my lack of faith in the effectiveness of political activism; the governments of the world still bother me with their self-assured smiles in the face of their inherrent inability to fix the real problems of humanity. The relative poverty of viable candidates frustrates me, as I often feel forced to choose between the lesser of two-hundred-thousand evils. Like most other people from this nation of 300 million, I frequently doubt the effectiveness of my singular vote (there are even some rumors floating around that absentee ballots are not necessarily counted in certain states). I'm as critical, cynical, and disillusioned as the next guy.

However, I feel compelled to participate in the democractic process anyway -- because I am a citizen and because I am a Christian.

I'll be short -- because no one likes to read long drawn-out political and/or theological diatribes (least of all me) -- but my citizenship compels me to vote because participation in a representative government is an incredible privilege that has not been afforded to the vast majority of the people to have lived (and to currently be living) on this planet. And even though I have my fair share of criticism for the government, I feel that I would essentially lose the moral right to criticize a representative system in which I choose not to (at least attempt to) elect my representation... Furthermore, as a follower of Christ, it seems quite clear that I am called to love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength -- essentially my whole self. And although it's far from easy to find the most Christ-centered political position (especially in a limited two-party system such as the USA's), I feel that I must try to follow God and my conscience in all matters of life -- be it, spending my money, or watching the television, or eating responsibly, or interacting with my neighbors... or voting.

I guess my thinking on these things has become a bit more crystalized as a result of living abroad. I've come to realize that whoever may get elected back in America (even he or she with whom I am generally ideologically opposed) stands to become my closest ally, as an official of the government that authorizes my passport -- so this helps to assuage some of the cynicism. Also, living here in Amsterdam, I have the good fortune of escaping a lot of the distasteful mud-slinging campaign advertisements and mind-numbingly circular debates in the news... Whatever the reasons may be, I feel more strongly than ever that voting is a right that should be exercised whenever possible.


At 6:24 PM, Anonymous mom said...

You have inspired me to be more careful in my voting, or lack thereof. I must admit that I have become lax in exercising my right to vote because of the very reasons you mentioned. I feel re-commited to the process after reading your blog. Thanks!

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Linda said...

I also completed my absentee ballot today.... it was quite a time consuming process as I'm not up to speed at all on the issues at hand, nor did I recongnize most of the names on the ballot. Therefore, some "homework" had to ensue before my number two pencil got its workout.
But, now it's done... and feels good. From one absentee voter to another... job well done, Eric!

At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be glad when the election is over. We are getting at least 2 phone calls a day. Thankfully we have caller id and can ignore them. That's not as annoying though as the workers at the actual polls. By the time I arrive I have already made my decisions and I really hate the way they try to shove literature in your hands. At least you avoid that by voting absentee. I always vote but am often dissappointed in the available choices. Last year I voted for my husband for Gov. of our state because I couldn't truly support either of the candidates.

J in VA

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

It's interesting that so many Americans (even lifelong "model citizens) are so seriously disillusioned with the political system these days... It seems like something has got to give one of these days.

I like the idea of voting for the unknown (even the personal acquaintances) if there are no viable candidates. I made a couple of similar choices in my ballot for this year. Hopefully, one of these days, the politicians will have to wake up and notice that they're losing touch with their constituencies (as if the percentage of voter participation were not already enough of a clue).


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