“Are you registered to vote?” is the question I’m asked most in these times. Perhaps it’s my baggy pants, my thin facial hair, or my music – something about me seems to declare, “IRRESPONSIBLE, SLACKER, INEPT – TOO YOUNG TO EXHIBIT CIVIC DUTY”
“Yes, and I already voted…weeks ago.” is how I usually reply.
But there is something in the initial question that seems even more pretentious than my acrimonious backlash. It’s a familiar tone; one of condescension. Finally, I’ve figured out the origin…
“Have you been a good boy this year?” Ah, yes. It’s been so long, but it still feels like it was just last Christmas. This is perhaps ultimately the exact same question – just contrasting diction for a contrasting scenario. Back then, it was a euphemism. And not much has changed. What they really meant was, “Have you made it clear to your parents what it is you wish to find beneath the tree on the morning of December 25th?”
With the nation still split fairly evenly and the stakes higher than ever, every party has shifted into high gear. Even the candidates who offer possibilities for real change are using all of their limited resources and funds in an effort to sway those who were too young or too unaware in races past to cast their votes. And in the midst of all this campaigning – and the slander that comes with it – no one has taken the time to consider the grim possibilities of an America in which everyone is voting.
The onslaught of advertisement – not for any program but for the television itself – not for any team but for the decrepit premises on which they play - can, if successful, increase the number of our voters. Sadly, there is no poll, no professionally trained pundits to tell us whether or not the most astute voters are still hiding in caves, or withholding from the registration process to help avoid Senator McCain’s inevitable draft. But if my own personal experience can shed any light on the matter, it is this: Those who have not yet registered to vote - but can still be swayed by a vague PSA or “Do Not Distrub-style” propaganda on their doorknobs - are a dangerous group of people, who pose a threat of more terror than any corrupt official they could ever elect.
As for myself, having voted way back on the day I received my ballot, my greatest anxiety is not that my candidate will lose the election. Rather, my greatest anxiety – in the realm of politics or elsewhere – is that he will indeed win, but he will never take the position if the ramshackle departments of Ohio or Florida of the Supreme Court do not see it fit. And they may not. They may not see fit because he could stymie the mongering of fossil fuels or the sprawl of democracy in faraway lands which are relentlessly opposed to our very presence. But then, history tells us that they may not see fit if only because of the color of his skin.
So what can a true patriot take solace in when the integrity of his nation’s electoral process is on par with that of the chief professional wrestling organization? Sex? Booze? Drugs? …Love? Perhaps. But my sources tell me these things are readily available in all those increasingly foreign and decreasingly threatening nations that lay outside the national comfort zones we call “borders.” All those places we’ve been taught to fear – if not for their lurking terrorists and brown people, than for their soccer, their language, their tiny cars, their same-sex marriages or their gun-laws.
We still don’t know if the American media is capable of informing and entertaining its viewers without stooping to the same condescending mode of discourse it utilizes now – a discourse which intensifies not only by the day, but in waves that mirror cultural occurrences like the Presidential election, or Christmas, as though we’re expected to check in with the holy glowing box – lest we lose touch with our contemporaries. No, we’ve never been given that chance, that vote of confidence in the ever-shrinking human intellect.
But until we somehow garner the results of this hypothetical scenario, we are doomed to a culture which panders to the family just smart enough to gain expendable income. As long as there are cubicles, there will be televisions marketed as the salvation coming at the end of a long day in the cubicle. Nothing intellectual, nothing so incredulous of our leaders as to prompt John Q. Breadwinner into “working” beyond 9-5. Nothing that asks the mind’s collaboration as much as, say, a book.
So what can a true patriot take solace in when the integrity of his nation’s electoral process is genetically no different from Fox’s Tuesday night lineup? Maybe tomorrow’s programming will be better…or maybe tomorrow, we will do the programming – and recall with startling clarity the merits of life without a laugh track, life without shameless plugs…life as more than part of a demographic or political party; life when we remember there is a difference between the two.