This coming Tuesday, November 6 is the New York State 2018 General Election and, as always, I would counsel that it is up to each voter to locate easily available information about each candidate and all proposed ballot measures in order to make an informed decision about how to vote. Rather than allowing potential leaders to hide weaknesses and wrongdoing from public awareness, our democratic voting process urges all of us to get involved and to share viewpoints about who should lead us.
Now if you've heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: "It’s your civic duty to vote." Between now and next Tuesday - unless you’re planning an extended session in a monastery - you’ll no doubt hear it again, but not from me! Due diligence requires I inform all of you that you actually have no duty (civic or otherwise) to vote in any election. You have the right to vote, but voting is not a government prescribed duty. In much the same way, you have the right to worship freely, the right to express your views, the right to run for public office - but no obligation to do any of them. Just as freedom of religion encompasses the freedom to practice no religion, your freedom to vote for the candidate of your choice includes the freedom to vote for no candidate at all.
Now please don't get me wrong, as I most certainly am not a proponent of not voting. To the contrary, I was six years old when I first saw the inside of a voting booth. It was Election Day, 1956. My father took me with him early in the morning when he went to vote and let me pull the lever for his candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Once I turned old enough to vote, I became an Election Day regular. I cast my first actual vote back in 1972 when I was 22 years old during my second enlistment in the United States Marine Corps for Richard Nixon who was running against George McGovern. I could not vote earlier, as the minimum voting age was only lowered to 18 from 21 in 1971 with the passage of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Yeah...that's right...old enough to fight in a war but too young to vote?
Quite frankly, my candidates don’t usually win, and even those who do, routinely disappoint me while in office. In 1964, when I was 14, I was a volunteer for Barry Goldwater's campaign, which imploded with an opposition 60-second political advertisement, which was only aired once, known as the "Daisy" ad, which painted Goldwater as a genocidal maniac who threatened the world’s future with nuclear annihilation and clinched the election for Lyndon Baines Johnson.
I should also add that President Nixon resigned in 1974, only two years after I cast my very first vote for him! Still, "Who cares who wins" has never been my philosophy, and as I am not given to sitting out any election at home with my eyes closed indulging myself in the fantasy that when I open my eyes the next day everything will have been magically fixed, I have managed to vote in every general election and most all general and primary elections since then. I relish the egalitarian ritual of Election Day - citizens of every rank coming together as equals to peacefully choose their leaders. Whether the result is one you sought or even when the outcome is a foregone conclusion, unwanted or downright distasteful, voting is an act of democratic self-government that we as Americans should all take pride in and enjoy being part of.
Just a reminder, this Saturday, November 3, the Broad Channel VFW will be hosting our town's very own annual "Penny Social" at the American Legion located at 209 Crossbay Boulevard. Doors will open at 6 p.m., accompanied by a $10 admission, with raffle calling starting at 7 p.m. Of course, there will be "early bird specials," a door prize, and 50/50s. As always, all proceeds from this fundraiser will go to fund Thanksgiving Dinner for the Disabled Veterans of St. Albans Hospital and other veteran-related events and activities.
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