A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

My Photo
Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Food for Thought

My parents never discussed politics, religion, or money in front of me. Politics I learned about in school. Religion I learned about in Catechism. Money I never learned about anywhere. At no point did I have an allowance; if I wanted something, I asked for it. I either got it or didn't.

I grew up in somewhat of a vacuum, not really knowing which cost more, a house or a dress. My father was Baptist and my mother, Roman Catholic. They both voted straight-ticket Republican. My father was a heavy drinker and my mother almost divorced him over it. But as a child I didn't know any of these things.

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, these are expressions I heard around the house a lot:

"Am I talking to the oven??"
"Because I said so."
"Don't get involved."
"[Whatever I wanted to know about] is not the business of children."

The first would be delivered in a loud wail. The others with a quiet finality that brooked no discussion.

When we went out as a family, nobody ever bothered to tell my sister or me where we were going. We submitted to vigorous hair-brushing, put on our coats and leggings as instructed, and sat in the back seat of the car, with occasional poking, pinching, and kicking to relieve the boredom. Sometimes, from the trees and telephone wires passing overhead, we deduced where we were headed. It didn't really matter; it wasn't the business of little children to know, and we had no choice in the matter anyway.

For most of my life, I've been using my upbringing as an excuse for my political apathy. I didn't become engaged early on; my political education was aborted. And so on and on. It's just beginning to dawn on me that no apology is needed. The older I get, the more I understand the wisdom of my parents.

People form opinions eventually, whether they're brainwashed from babyhood or not. My parents were big on education. Go to school: your job is to be a student. Never mind about a summer job in the tobacco fields. Just study; in the long run, that will make you more money. And it did. A full scholarship to Smith; a year of study abroad. A teaching assistantship at Purdue. A decent living, not to mention almost-daily surprises in my mailbox, just for sitting home and regurgitating whatever I've learned.

When people don't go to the polls, it's not out of laziness. In my opinion, there's really no such thing. Human beings are organisms with instincts for survival. They prioritize their actions according to a hierarchy of needs. If the need to vote is perceived as important, it is satisfied. If no candidate is perceived as any better than any other, why vote? Non-voting is, in fact, a vote: a vote against the whole system.

I am a registered voter. Sometimes I vote; sometimes I don't. Rarely do I fill out an entire ticket, and rarely do I vote for anyone who's got a chance in hell to win. But whom I vote for, or whether or not I vote at all, is nobody's business. If we're going to have any government at all, I'm happy that it's an elected one. Voting is a right and a privilege. But so is not voting.

I once asked my mother, after a presidential election, for whom she had voted. "In this country, we have a system of secret ballots," she told me. "My vote is my business. Nobody else's. That's the beauty of our system of government."

Right on, Mom.

Just as freedom of religion includes the right not to believe in any religion, the right to vote includes the right not to vote. I don't see where going to the polls to choose between a Republican (ugh) and a Democrat (ugh), or writing in dead losers like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, gives anyone a magical dispensation to complain for the next four years, and their more pragmatic brethren none.

So, to make a long story short. Did I vote today, and if so, for whom? None of your business.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home