Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voting & the Blood of Children

You’ll usually find me reading more than one book at a time, almost always nonfiction, and now is no exception. I’m reading “A New Age Begins,” Paige Smith’s engaging history of the American Revolution and “The Race Beat” (by Gene Roberts & Hank Klibanoff), a compelling look at media coverage of the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s.

It struck me this morning that both books are important reminders about what’s happening during next Tuesday’s election.

We are often urged to vote because the blood of soldiers on foreign soil purchased that precious privilege. With PSAs and bumper stickers, we parents are often urged to vote for our kids because our kids can’t vote for themselves. Some folks dismiss these exhortations as platitudes.

But my two books (among many others) remind us that daughters and sons also died on our own soil in pursuit of the right to choose their leaders. During the 1770s, citizen soldiers and militia died from Georgia to New Hampshire for a nation that didn’t yet exist. In my own lifetime, people (mostly young people) died to secure full voting rights for all of that nation’s citizens.

The majority of sacrifices in both battles were made by people younger than my own two daughters. The fact that lives were sacrificed here on our own soli—and even within the last generation—makes the responsibility of voting very vivid for me. And it’s what motivated me to sign up as a county election judge for Tuesday.

So I’m thinking today of those who sacrificed life and limb for our fascinating experiment of a Republic—most of them young people not unlike our own children.

And I’m asking you to vote.

If you feel annoyed about having to wait in line or frustrated by the bureaucracy of voting, you could comfort yourself by picturing how many more hours I’ll be at my polling place.

But better comfort and inspiration will come from picturing the greater sacrifices your own child might have been called to make 50 or 200 years ago—and may be called upon to make in her own lifetime—to secure the privilege of having that line you’ll stand in.