Democracy: It’s a Team Sport

Use Your Voice, or Lose It

When I was seven or eight years old my mother took me with her to vote. She had taken me before that, I’m sure, but it was around that time the memory stamped indelibly in my mind is noted.

Our election place was a private school not far from our home. I remember walking up the long path way to the front of the stone steps, a beautiful old building, colonial era I think. Stepping through the front door we were directed by signs to the gymnasium, Its hardwood floor polished to a high gloss. School has only been in session for a month or so, so the place still hung fresh with that unmistakable smell of varnish, fresh paint, and a sense of newness in a place very old.

I remember the sun streaming through the windows. I remember stepping into the booth with my mother who pulled a lever closing the curtain behind us.

In front of us the machine had a long line and series of little toggles, one row for the Democratic candidates, and another row for the Republicans. There also was an array of other levers related, I know now, to things like ballot measures and propositions. It was to the row of candidates my mother gestured. At the end of each row was a lever and you could pull that lever and vote a “straight party ticket“.

I can recall what my mother was wearing — a thick raccoon coat, her hair in its pageboy cut just above her shoulders. She pointed at the lever at the end and told me that one doesn’t just pull that, that one must examine each candidate on their own merit, that “good” government is one comprised of diversity and different voices.

She then took notes from her purse, and studiously selected each candidate — some from one row, some from another. When she pulled the big lever that tallied votes and opened the curtain, I felt that we had just done something very important. That we had contributed.

Over the years I have to admit that while I voted in every election there was a sense of complacency about it. It wasn’t until the election of 2008 when the state of California voters told me I was a second-class citizen by preventing my ability to get married through the travesty that was Proposition 8 that I got “woke”. It was at that time I began to once again get involved. To once again examine every candidate and every ballot measure. To read the materials that were sent to me. To ask lots of questions from lots of different people to try to get a balanced view.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my own politics lie slightly left of the centerline, and as such I realize that some of the view I get is skewed. But I do my best to evaluate information from many places.

Doing that today is damn near impossible. It takes near Herculean effort — patience, persistence, and most of all, time — qualities of which the average American voter has little to none. To be clear, I am not saying American voters are stupid. In fact quite the opposite. American voters are scared. American voters are worried about survival. And when an animal is in a fearful state, primal tendencies kick in. Pure survival. So taking the time to listen, to ask and most of all to be WILLING to explore views outside one’s own — rare things indeed.

I’m not sure precisely at what point our country went off the rails. If I had to guess I would say it was during the Clinton administration, but the slow decay began before that. When, during one administration, a vice president of the United States thought it appropriate to use profanity on the floor of Congress and treat a floor debate in a hallowed hall of our Government more like a elementary school playground brawl, things got clear for me.

It was at that point I realized there was an element within our government whose interest was destabilizing the very foundation on which our country was built. They were going to do so by pitting us against each other, by removing reason to discourse, by turning debates over policy into name calling. By making us afraid.

I have had a number of conversations lately with people about how I refuse to fall into that category, I refuse to let those who would destroy our country — no matter which side of the aisle they may be on —  do so.

This weekend I do my homework. I do my research. I wish I could say that I will be ticking boxes from both of those lines but the likelihood is slim. For while I harbor no illusion of the major failures and flaws of the party with which I more commonly align, it is crystal clear that there is one party that has gone so far into the realm of ego-saturated self that their weakness and failure to stand up to the monsters to which they’ve given birth makes them anathema to me.

So this weekend I educate and prepare to slay monsters the best way I know how — taking them out of office.




Raconteur and Silicon Valley expat who’s gone to the dogs … literally. Read more here

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Cathy Brooks

Cathy Brooks

Raconteur and Silicon Valley expat who’s gone to the dogs … literally. Read more here

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