Perhaps you are waiting for the first Tuesday in November, just like so many times before.
Maybe you have already done so, taking advantage of the early period. Or quite possibly you have sent it by mail, an option exercised by far more in these pandemic days.
Whatever form it takes, and whichever means you utilize, it’s never felt more important, or more necessary, to cast a ballot than right here, right now, in 2020.
If you don’t feel that way, well, consider that men and women all over this country have already voted, sometimes waiting in unconscionably long lines for up to double-digit hours, regardless of weather.
Driven and motivated by multiple attempts to stymie or outright stop their participation, they have done so anyway, an act of joyful defiance reflecting both historical awareness and fierce urgency.
The history part should be easy to understand. We are only a couple of generations removed from more overt state-sponsored voter suppression of African-Americans, literacy tests and poll taxes, marchers beaten and a few even killed just because they want to participate in democracy, too.
Now, aided and abetted by courts mistakenly believing that we are past things like racism, those barriers were rebuilt in many of the same states that blocked people before, with those in charge determined to preserve their power no matter how cruel and crude it looks.
Funny, though, how the more you try and take something valuable and precious away from people – not just voting, but things like banned books or music – the more determined they get to have it anyway. Works every time.
Add to it the all-consuming shadow of COVID-19. The direction we are all going to take in the months and years ahead is fundamentally at stake, not to mention the timeline of if and when we can reclaim most of our former lives and related activities.
Of course, such profound questions are a routine part of a presidential election, so hearing the phrase “This is the most important election of our lives” can grate on our collective nerves like all the other cliches that pop up every four years.
Except for this small consideration – the basic idea of our system of government just might be on the line.
Too dramatic, too drastic? Not when one side is committed to concentrating all power in the hands of an omnipotent executive and the other side believes the hard work of government should be more equally distributed.
Not when a situation presents itself where one side eschews the legislative process in favor of packing courts with ideologues guaranteed to rule in their favor, and the other side actually believes in that separation-of-powers concept.
And not when, in terms of the Constitution, one side preaches total fealty to one amendment but considers the rest of the protections optional, and the other side actually believes in the whole document and that it actually should apply to every person in our land.
By now you’ve probably figured where I stand, but what is far more important is that my own point of view is just one of many and that every opinion, popular or not, has a place in the American dialogue and it should always be up to us to determine whether it holds sway or not.
Most of all, what I pray is that this country, at some unknown point in the future, returns to a place where ideological discussions do not dissolve into all-out brawls where we look at each other as enemies, and not fellow citizens.
To go through an extreme trial in our history, and not learn anything from it, would prove tragic. One admirable part of our nation is that it’s not perfect. It required great efforts, and great sacrifices, to make it better for those (literally everyone but white men) originally shut out of the process.
That toil, and tribulation, produced what we face right now – namely, the urgent need to maintain and utilize the most basic right accorded to us when we’ve still got the opportunity to do so, to choose for ourselves who we want to lead us.
Sure, it might look different. It might feel different. It might take a bit more of ourselves. But at this moment in history, to squander and waste our power is something we cannot afford.