Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Another Reason to Face the Hanging Chad

Tucked snugly into the folds of a woman’s large bag, as the minivan sped out of Praia, I craned to chat with the nice man flanking the left side of her bundle.
From the driver’s poor taste in zouk* we came to my nationality.
“I’m from America, but I didn’t vote for Bush.”
(Usually people shake their head and say “Now, Clinton, that was a good president”).
“You are from America, ok!” the man smiled. “I have two sons, actually, who are---“
I was not listening. Brockton, New Bedford, or Pawtucket would get mentioned, I would refocus, and say “Oh, I actually went to school around there.”
I turned back towards him, vaguely aware that here was not a suburb of Boston.
He nodded.
The woman stopped smiling and stared down at her bundle. I stared at my own empty lap.
“My friend, her Fiancé is there and she is having a hard time,” I fumbled.
He nodded, unoffended. “Every morning I wake up, my heart goes like this.” He
pounded his chest.
* * *
Its election season and we are all getting complacent. McCain is old and sang a mediocre bubblegum song about bombing Iran. Romney prays to a God who condoned polygamy, but he is not sure about gay marriage. Money has been poured into ad campaigns at unprecedented levels, state primaries have been held so early as to disqualify their votes, and Republicans are turning out in unusually low numbers.
And yet, far away from New Hampshire and Iowa, on buses in developing countries, nice men chat about their sons, who may die at the hands of a president they couldn’t pick. Further from Washington than Cindy Sheehan, there are some 60,000 sets of parents whose chests pound each morning as they picture their kids in unprotected army tankers, but whose only recourse is to watch the international evening news roundup (there are roughly 60,000 “immigrants” in the U.S. Army).
Sure, it doesn’t make sense to give the vote to the parents of U.S. citizens, just as it doesn’t make sense to give the vote to the Iraqis and Afghanis, whose lives are even more directly affected by our President. But before we become totally immersed in the election apathy that may appear at times to be totally justified, we must recognize that it is a privilege to be part of the process of choosing one of worlds’ most powerful leaders. With the privilege might come a moral obligation, to exercise it on behalf of the millions who lack it but who may be more affected by the election outcome than ourselves.


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