Oh, I suppose that we hear some pundit or newsmaker every day talk about rights in some way or another, or some wild eyed radical is standing outside the local grocery shouting that his rights have been infringed upon.
However, in the day to day getting by that most of us live, I imagine that there are few times when those of us in the U.S. are actually conscious of the rights we hold in this place. We take them for granted, assuming that they will always be around, trusting that the ACLU or Fox News has them under control.
Perhaps the most basic right we hold beyond the right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the right of the vote. Of course, that hasn’t always been a right for all of us. Women were disenfranchised for many years and it was only the Voting Rights Act of 1964 that truly brought equality in voting to African Americans and other minorities. But today, in 2008, there are very few excuses not to vote.
Right now, I am feeling somewhat self righteous about this because just about an hour ago I stepped into the local early voting office in my neighborhood and cast my ballot. It wasn’t difficult. There weren’t especially long lines (the workers said that this was the only location that didn’t have long lines, partially because it is new and not many folks know about it). I showed my ID, signed a piece of paper, and the next thing I knew I was standing behind a touch screen entering my selections.
I’m not going to say much about who I voted for, although if you have been around this blog it should be pretty clear (no Bradley Effect moments for me!). However, it isn’t the personality that is important. It is the ability to step forward and make my opinion known in a formal way, attempting to steer the direction of this place where I live by the most important resource I have – my vote.
I normally wait until the official election day to vote, choosing to be a part of what I experience as a big national party (frankly, it should be a national holiday, and the government should supply free beverages to everyone who votes!). However, as we did in the last presidential election, we will be handing out coffee and donuts to the folks coming into the church to vote (we are a voting precinct) and I usually can’t get free to cast my own vote when I am playing host. So I voted early, and I have to say that there is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that for me everything is settled for a while.
It’s too late most everywhere to register, so if you forgot you are frankly out of luck. But I want to encourage everybody who IS registered to exercise the right. To fail to do so is to trample of the witness of those who came before, and cause you to lose any right to complain when things get tough.