Ben Franklin and Neil Young Would Be Proud

» Posted by on Nov 2, 2010 in Politics, Psychology, Spiritual | 0 comments

We drove to the local firehall today just as we’ve done so many times before on this crisp, fall, November morning.  We made our way past the cluttered campaign signs and a few cheery poll workers offering their last minute hand shakes and tired, somewhat forced smiles.  We slowly make our way over to the table marked A-M.  “Creasy, C R E A S Y.” We autographed the small space and moved to the next station.  An elderly man handed us our paper ballot and pointed us in the direction of the small, dimly lit voting booth that reminded me of those that protect the contestants on final Jeopardy from sneaking a peek.

I notice a lump in my throat.  What is it?  How does one describe the feeling that only manifests and is only noticeable in the polling place each first Tuesday in November?  Is it just pride in our country? Is it an unconscious “knowing” that we are free citizens and can make a difference to protect the republic by voting that suddenly breaks the surface of our conscious realm of thinking? Does this reentry into consciousness strike an emotional chord  that often goes unnoticed during the routine of our daily existence?  I describe this as a sacredness.  It’s a feeling of reverence and deep respect for the privilege of expressing our voice in how we are governed.

I’d like to borrow from Neil Young, a school history teacher in Chester Co. Pennsylvania to elaborate.

As one story goes, Benjamin Franklin emerged from Independence Hall and was asked by a lady, “Sir, what have you given us?”; to which he replied, “A republic ma’m, if you can keep it.”

Every time I read that quote, I wonder what Governor Franklin meant by it.  The obvious answer lies in the fact that the burden of keeping a republic ultimately lies with the voting public.  However I believe that this cryptic, backhanded, and off the cuff comment was Franklin’s way of expressing just how difficult it is to maintain a republic.

The United States officially recognizes 194 countries around the world and of those around 40 are recognized as dictatorships.  That would leave over 150 countries operating in varying degrees as republics.  Despite their best efforts, many of those republics are perilously close to slipping back into despotism.

There are many difficulties with placing power in the hands of the people, but two causes will crumble a republic more often anything else.  First is a countries inability to host free and fair elections.  Elections run with minimum corruption and fraud, and where citizens are safe and informed to cast their ballot in secret.  This is no small task.  In Afghanistan’s last election, the U.N estimates that about 60% of votes were fraudulent.  Votes were either forged or simply discarded.  Citizens were either intimidated or attacked.  As a result Afghanistan now has a president that few citizens can put their trust in.   Ironically enough it seems that the less equipped a country is to deal with an election, the more hungry it’s people are to let their voices be heard.  There are many reports that the Taliban cut off the pinky fingers of those who voted, yet voter turnout in Afghanistan was likely three times that of the U.S midterm elections.

I took my marked ballot and fed it gently into the machine resembling a cross between a paper shredder and printer, which gobbled it up. I carefully noticed the counted ballots number changed from 214 to 215.

Yep, that’s it.  Now I feel like I’ve done all that I can do to make a difference and protect the republic.  Ben would be proud.

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