An Open Note to All American Citizens

I do not care what your political persuasion is. But I’ll just say this.

If you do not vote tomorrow, you are not entitled to complain. You are not entitled to bitch. You are not entitled to raise a stink about anything that goes down during the next few years. If you cannot get your lazy ass off the sofa and get down to a polling place, then anything even remotely political coming out of your maw means nothing. Because in throwing your vote away, in choosing not to participate, you have capitulated one of the great rights bestowed upon you by our Founding Fathers.

Perhaps you’re hesitant because you can’t be troubled to actually look at all that helpful information that came in the mail. I mean, hell, hundreds of pages of legalese ain’t exactly riveting reading. Or maybe it’s because you can’t be troubled to concern yourself with the crazed situation unfolding around us, or because you’re annoyed by all the automated phone calls, or because you are perhaps guided by fear or laziness or the sense that your voice does not matter or that this election will be stolen. Well, your voice does matter! And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

But if you decide not to use that voice, even if it means wincing when pulling the lever for a flaacid Democrat or voting in a shady Republican incumbent you’re not particularly crazy about (full confession: I’m going to be doing a lot of wincing tomorrow morning myself), if you cannot be troubled to make a hard and careful decision about the future of this nation, then how, I ask, can you live with yourself? You’re capable of deciding among any number of uneasy dichotomies: Coke or Pepsi? Lennon or McCartney? Beatles or Stones? Mozart or Beethoven? Mac or PC? Star Trek or Star Wars? All of these are troublesome and sometimes quite nauseous choices to make, representing a veritable yin-yang of pros and cons no matter which way you decide. But you have no problems accepting the responsibility of being culturally decisive in this field.

Do you mean to tell me that, when you see an unsavory duo like the Republicans and Democrats, you cannot make a similar choice? That you cannot make a decision? Even a reluctant one?

Sure, the electoral college system sucks. And you’re not alone in despising it or thinking that it’s useless. No less a figure than Thomas Jefferson wrote:

….I have no hesitation in saying that I have ever considered the constitutional mode of election ultimately by the legislature voting by states as the most dangerous blot in our constn*, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit, and give us a pope & anti-pope.

Jefferson’s words to George Hay were amazingly prophetic. For what do we have but the pope and anti-pope? Red states and blue states? A political system that suggests you are for something or against something, when any Joe with even a dollop of common sense knows that life ain’t that black and white.

But this is nevertheless our system. And, flawed as it is, if you do not make your voice known tomorrow, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

It is profoundly important that you vote tomorrow. Vote not because some smug suit or scruffy hippie tells you that you should vote a particular way, but because now, more than ever, this republic needs your input.

* — Short for “Constitution.”


  1. Is it really necessary that everyone gets involved?

    I’ve been wondering if politics shouldn’t share a theory with economics that says that ‘assets are always at their best price’. As long as we have investment bankers and a few people who care, all assets will be properly priced. Maybe in politics as long as we have journalists and a few people who care, the situation will also be properly balanced.

    As telling as the claim about the low turnouts is, also very telling are the closeness of the big races. Good balance.

    As to responsibility, I think one’s government is like the weather. One has no (real) control over it, but one does suffer the consequences. The only way to have real control over one’s government is via a huge extraordinary effort. It is clear that having the vast majority of the masses making huge extraordinary efforts to affect politics would be wasteful and inefficient. Almost no Individual has control over his or her government. And so, I propose that similar to us all having a right to complain about the weather, we also all (even non-voters) have the right to complain about our government.

    So, I won’t be voting. Instead, I will continue my role as a small cog in this great wheel. I will continue in my efforts to understand trees; I’m investigating the palms at the moment. And I am glad to hear everyone pounding their fists on the tables “Red!” “Blue!”. In confirms to me that a good many still care about politics. Hence, I will enjoy the beat of the pounding without listening to the lyrics and go back to my studies with a tranquil mind.

  2. I Declare Cooping Day

    As if literary folks needed another excuse to get drunk and wear each other’s clothes, I propose that Election Day, November 7, be declared “Cooping Day” in memory of Edgar Allan Poe’s demise.

    According to The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore,

    “This is the theory given in the vast majority of Poe biographies, although it cannot be proven true. Coincidence or not, the day Poe was found on the street was election day in Baltimore and the place near where he was found, Ryan’s Fourth Ward Polls, was both a bar and a place for voting. In those days, Baltimore elections were notorious for corruption and violence. Political gangs were willing to go to great extremes to ensure the success of their candidates. Election ballots were stolen, judges were bribed and potential voters for the opposition intimidated. Some gangs were known to kidnap innocent bystanders, holding them in a room, called the “coop.” These poor souls were then forced to go in and out of poll after poll, voting over and over again. Their clothing might even be changed to allow for another round. To ensure compliance, their victims were plied with liquor and beaten. Poe’s weak heart would never have withstood such abuse. This theory appears to have been first offered publicly by John R. Thompson in the early 1870s to explain Poe’s condition and the fact that he was wearing someone else’s clothing. A possible flaw in the theory is that Poe was reasonably well-known in Baltimore and likely to be recognized.”

    I believe we can pull this off without the beatings. Drinking is not uncommon at political rallies, and I, for one, have been known to wear ill-fitting clothes that don’t belong to me. In my younger days, I was once voted the best Nell at a Rocky Horror event.

    Of course, we have to vote first! This is important (understatement); but once our ballots are cast and we are waiting, longing, for a change in the wind, we might as well do something to take the edge off.

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