December NewSpin Column

A November retrospective

This year’s ballot should have come with a disclaimer that no one with heart conditions, a propensity for fainting or other weaknesses of disposition should attempt to fill out the three-page behemoth without supervision.

Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman certainly seems to get it though. By trying to block the involvement of thousands of newly registered voters – most of whom are registered as Democrats – les than ninety days out from perhaps the biggest election in our lifetime, he’s actually providing a valuable public service.

After all, you don’t want such a big responsibility placed in the hands of rookies, right? Leave this one to the voting veterans, my friends.

Actually, it turns out Coffman buckled under pressure and agreed to let these new registrants vote provisionally, so it looks like the newbies ended up having as much say as those with years of voting experience under their belts. No weighted averages or anything.

Next thing you know, these folks are going to argue to let women vote or something.

Though I knew voting this year would be more involved than usual, I figured that at least my choice of presidents would be easy, but no such luck. Instead of two choices, for which I had emotionally prepared myself, there were upwards of two hundred and thirty seven candidates. Between the Constitution Party, the Greens, Libertarians and others, I felt overwhelmed.

We’ll just leave that one blank.

Next, there’s the matter of the judges. Since when am I supposed to know anything about judges? I’ve never committed a felony, so why would I? And isn’t picking judges what the executive branch is for? Besides, they haven’t earned the right to my vote like McCain and Obama, who I got to know so well in thirty-second intervals and diluted sound bytes over the past two years.

We’ll go with a “yes” for everyone whose name doesn’t sound too fascist.

Then there are all of these amendments to wade through. Sure, there have been commercials about all the big ones, but no one can seem to agree. If you vote one way, you hate children, and if you vote the other, you’re a bloodthirsty commie.

Remember, commies hate children too. Let’s not discriminate.

Here’s one about making it harder to add amendments to the ballot. That’s an easy one: check. This much thinking makes my brain hurt.

 Finally, there are a few of these questions about eliminating antiquated language from the constitution. Really?  What’s that about? Do we really need our constitution to sound hip?  Are they replacing all of the “thous” and “wherefores” with “yo,” “jiggy,” and “krunk?” There’s something to be said for keeping up with the times, but that outdated language is part of the document’s charm.

By now, I’m surrounded by the remains of sports drink bottles and No-Doz packets, and I’m pretty sure that I’m experiencing the onset of carpal tunnel. The good news is, I’ve never felt so frigging patriotic in my life.

As I dab by glistening forehead with my Thomas Kincaid limited-issue stars-and-stripes hand-painted wristbands, I think back to the founding fathers, and all of the hardship they must have endured, writing all of those words down – and with a feather, no less!

At least I have my Mont Blanc at the ready, filling in the vacuous gaps between the “yes” and “no” arrows with the deftness of a stealth fighter. My snack stockpile has dwindled and the incessant staring at the ballot pages has resulted in some traumatic eye strain, but at least I can hold my head high and say with pride that I did my civic duty.

But just imagine if I had actually researched all those things before I filled them in! 

On a more serious note, I’m not too much of a man to admit that I actually got misty the night of the election, particularly during Barack Obama’s Victory speech. My first thought, which I contemplated with much relief, was that my soon-to-be born daughter would no nothing of George Bush’s presidency short of what is conveyed to her in the history books.

But much more than an absence of a negative was the presence of something I had not experienced in my adult lifetime with respect to politics: hope. I’m not talking about sound-byte, campaign-trail sort of hope either, and I should point out that my hope transcends any candidate or single issue.

The hope I felt, and thus far, continue to feel, is steeped in something bigger: something within me that has begun to believe in the national ethos of American resiliency, and in our willingness to change, to evolve and to take risk. In this historic election, we have broken a barrier that never can be put back in its place in American history, and though racial divides, economic disparities and ideological conflict still exist, we learned that, as a people, we believe in something bigger.

There will be days when Obama’s presidency is challenged, and when his near-messianic popularity will diminish.  No one human being, however visionary or great, can change the world on their own. But if the American people truly commit to the vision of change they have pronounced at least in rhetoric, and if we each covenant to own our share of the responsibility to lift ourselves and one another up, unwilling to settle for “good enough,” the change we seek will come.

It’s nice to believe this is possible once again, no matter who our leaders happen to be. It’s up to all of us, and the good news is that I’m starting to believe once again that we’ll do the right thing in the end.

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