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Let’s Get the Vote Out in 2018! #80in18

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One effect of complaining is that it diminishes our capacity to find effective solutions to the very problems we complain about. It leaves us “feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and bad about ourselves.” This is no good state of mind for taking positive action to change our situation. Yet we love to complain, and social media makes it not only easy but attractive to complain to those who agree with us. We trade complaints for affirmation from our friends that our complaints are justified.

A favorite source of our complaints is our government. We seem to forget that our government answers to us, that we live in a democratic republic where those who make and enforce our laws are our elected representatives. We, the people,—the voters in this republic—have the power to call our representatives to account. We act instead as if we have no power, as if our vote does not matter, as if we are helpless to change the things we don’t like.

During the last midterm election in 2014, about 40% of eligible voters actually took the trouble to cast a ballot. More than half of eligible voters did not think it worth their while to express their opinion about who would represent them in Congress, yet many of those same people complain bitterly about what Congress is doing now. To maintain our republic, we need much more than 40% participation from voters. Ideally, we want 100%, but that may seem unattainable. I propose we shoot for 80% turnout in 2018. I believe this is an attainable goal. If you agree, start using the hashtag #80in18 on Twitter and Facebook in any posts calling for the people to take back the government. We’ve tried letting special interests and corporate lobbyists run things for too long. It’s time for we, the people, to make our voices heard.

  • Vote your mind.
  • Vote your conscience.
  • Vote your values.
  • Vote your self-interest.
  • Vote your party.
  • Vote for the most reasonable candidate.
  • Vote for the most passionate candidate.
  • Vote for the best-looking candidate.
  • Vote against the candidate you don’t like.
  • Vote against sexism.
  • Vote against racism.
  • Vote for the status quo.
  • Vote progressive.
  • Vote so you can complain.
  • Vote according to whatever criteria you deem important.
  • Vote!

Don’t just vote. Encourage others to vote. Whenever one of your friends complains about the government, ask them how they voted. If they say they didn’t vote, refuse to listen to their complaints. Ignore political ads and do your own research. You can find resources about how your representatives have voted and what positions they have taken on issues you care about here, here, and here. In the Internet age, there’s no excuse for voter ignorance.

If you want to make a difference beyond your vote, consider ways you can help. Volunteer to help unregistered citizens register to vote. Research early voting and absentee voting laws in your state and work to change them or help others navigate the system to make sure their vote counts. Offer rides to the polls on election day. Join a political party or an issue-oriented political action committee. Write and call your representatives about the issues you care about, especially before important votes are scheduled. Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers.

Don’t complain; do something. Make a difference. Vote!

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Good Question

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My daughter-in-law brought homemade cinnamon rolls to our Thanksgiving Day celebration. Our family decided to get together all day, so we started with breakfast. She asked me what I thought of her cinnamon rolls even though everyone else had already raved about them.

“I don’t know if they’re really good,” she said, “or if everyone is just saying they are to spare my feelings because I’m pregnant.”

So she asked me.

I have a reputation in my family for speaking my mind without regard for people’s feelings. I have this reputation for two reasons:

  1. I have a high regard for the people I love and their ability to accept my opinions.
  2. I am an insensitive asshole.*

I tried her cinnamon rolls. While I was eating one, it occurred to me that if anyone spared her feelings, it was because they love her. I asked her, “Would you rather experience some doubt about yourself knowing that your friends and family love you, or would you rather be certain but know that they do not?”

She thought about it for a minute. “I don’t know,” she said.

“They’re very good,” I said. Indeed, they were.

*I sometimes shamelessly use the first reason as cover for the second. I’m sorry. I’m only human.

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Why “This Land is Your Land” Should Be Our National Anthem

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The Star-Spangled Banner is a fine song for remembering the war of 1812 and giving some attention to our flag, but it doesn’t really embody the values that have made America great. It’s hard to sing and uses language that most people find obscure. (What are ramparts anyway?)

By contrast Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land is memorable, easy to sing, and easy to understand. It also expresses ideals that have made America a light to the world: inclusiveness, equality, and liberty. Take a look at the lyrics. I’ve left out two controversial verses Guthrie wrote but which are not often performed. To learn more about the song, see the Wikipedia article.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

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