More Than Standing in Line

I plan to turn in my ballot today. I would be willing to wait in line for 12 hours to do so, just like so many in other states have been forced to do as a result of voter suppression efforts. There is a lot riding on this election, and I see it as a right and a responsibility to add my voice to that of so many. I will fill out my requested ballot in the comfort of my home and then do whatever is necessary to take it in to be counted. If that means standing in a line for half a day wearing a mask, so be it. I am energized to vote, and so will I do.

On the other hand, I find that the candidates on the ballot to be a major indictment of our current political system. There is too much riding on this election to throw away my vote to a third-party candidate. The question I keep returning to, however, is, "Out of a population of 331 million people, how are these the best candidates our political parties have been willing to put forward?" The second question is, "Why are we willing to put up with that?"

Our political parties have failed us as a nation.

*We have children in cages, ripped away from their families as political pawns to suffer egregious trauma from which they will never fully recover in order to gain political points for certain people.

*We have a major pandemic the likes of which the world has not seen in living memory.

*We have a stock market bubble adding to the wealth of the uber-wealthy while lines continue to grow at food banks.

*We have a healthcare system that is tied to employment while a pandemic rages, pushing people out of work.

*We have voices of white supremacy and racism seeking and being granted airtime and stoking social tensions.

*We have religious leaders more beholden to supporting a political party than calling us as a nation to justice for the disenfranchised.

*We have news media that are so interested in corporate profit margins that they have been depleting their ranks of journalists.

*We have a corporate culture that has shifted to such a focus on profits and stock prices that any semblance of caring for the needs of workers and the communities they serve has been lost.

*We have a healthcare system that is being governed more by that same drive for profit margins than any concern for the health of our society.

*We have a justice system that is focused on punishing marginalized populations for lower-level crimes, turning a blind eye to large-scale corruption, and turning profits for special interests like a privatized prison industry.

*We have politicians at all levels of government focused on retaining power and being re-elected to the exclusion of tackling these deep issues we face as a nation.

*We have eroding public infrastructure.

*We have growing educational access inequality, especially in relation to required distance-learning in a pandemic.

*We have an unaddressed shift away from the enforcement of anti-trust laws.

*We have regulation systems that privilege the wealthy and powerful at the expense of all competition.

*We have corporate interests exerting way too much influence upon government and the politicians whose task should be to keep them in check for the welfare of the nation.

*We still have impacts of climate change to address, including sea-level rise in coastal communities, more named storms than at any other time in history, wildfires due in large part to changing weather patterns, increases in flooding, air and water quality decreases, needing to shift toward renewable energy sources, and needs to change land-use patterns.

As a nation, we could do so much better, but we have allowed those working behind the scenes to gain way too much power. We have not held our politicians accountable. We have not demanded better of our representatives. We have remained far too silent, far too detached, far too willing to go along with the flow as the gains and progress of former generations have been eroded.

We can't take this status quo much longer and expect things to turn up roses. At some point, the best of fruit trees need pruning. Orchards need attention and care. Dying trees must be replanted. Soil must be fertilized. Pests must be dealt with. We must take a stand and get about fulfilling our responsibilities if we are to have a government with is truly "of the people by the people and for the people."

Whatever path we choose, at the end of the day it will be developed at the consent of the governed. What will our votes mean? Whatever they mean, they will not be enough to bridge the great divides which plague us and get us on track to addressing so many larger issues. That will take much more than standing in a line for half a day.

©Copyright 2020, Christopher B. Harbin


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