November 6, 2012

Thoughts on Election Day

Carl Spitzweg 033
Carl Spitzweg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You're probably sick of the election. Like me. It seems like it's been going on forever. It's sort of like modern Christmas that starts somewhere around June and wraps up after the New Year's sales are over.

Politicians lie or stretch the truth or "spin" the story their way. The media spins worse. Or better, depending on your perspective. I spend a lot of time hoping I make the right decision and I'm not sure there really is a "right" one.

To me it comes down to one basic thing... sometimes life is great and sometimes life just sucks. And I don't care what anyone says -- not politicians, not economists, not the media. THE WORLD IS MAGICAL AND MYSTERIOUS and there's no controlling it.

We're a bunch of people on a planet and we are so tied into one another that changing the price of oil by a few barrels makes me buy less stuff at the grocery store. And some clever jerk who is an expert on the stock market can short-sell something and suddenly my neighbor is at the foodbank every Wednesday because he can't get a job. Yes, the butterly effect.

The other night my oldest son (age 9) was sitting on the couch with me and we were watching the news and discussing the upcoming election. He said, "Your vote doesn't count, Mom."

When I looked over at him, surprised that he knew much of anything about voting, he was ready to defend his position adding, "It doesn't. I'm serious."

I ran through my various options -- was it worth trying to explain the electoral college and the popular vote? I've read all the pros and cons about both and every time I read them I throw my hands up in despair because I'm not smart enough to fix a defective system and even if I were who would listen to me? Me, a mid-40's dumpling with freckles who doesn't have a PhD. (Although to my credit I make a really mean chicken soup.)

And so I took the easy way out and said, "Yes and no. What we do matters even when it seems like it doesn't. We must always make our voices heard even if it seems pointless at the time."

It's like the story about the starfish. Or, my favorite analogy... like throwing a rock in a pond and watching the ripples.

I frequently tell people I live in a small town. I suppose it's bragging because I think small-town living is the best kind of living. But one of the things I love about it is that you can actually SEE what happens when you throw the rock. You can volunteer to chair a committee and months later realize you've helped provide toys for 600 families who would have otherwise had a crummy Christmas. You can volunteer as a child advocate and make sure that a little girl who nearly starved to death from neglect gets adopted into a forever-home and has a chance at life and love and college. You can attend a meeting that results in a dock and bridge being built over a city pond so that handicapped kids can fish alongside all the other children when it's fishing derby time at the summer festival.

You can see the landmarks of your actions.

Twelve years ago before we had electronic voting machines, many of the townsfolk would gather on the courthouse square to watch the ballot counts come in. There were booths where popcorn was served and coffee and hot chocolate. Candidates would mill around and joke and josh and wait for the news. The guy who owns the radio station would stand on the corner and read off the tally sheets someone brought him and an old lady and man would change numbers on the white board as they listened to what he said.

We'd hang out there in the dim street lighting, our breath billowing white into the freezing November air. We didn't care that we were cold or that maybe the election results weren't exactly going our way. Because we were together, all of us. And that is what mattered.

And to me that's all that matters now. So the world is bigger and we are more global, but we still share the rent on the planet. What I do matters. What you do matters.

Keep flapping your wings.