Voting is not hard, but it's not necessarily the easiest of things to do. We are hard-wired to conserve energy, and going out of our way to vote takes a bit of effort. It's easier when an effort is routine - like brushing teeth or chores; or when there's a palpable and quick positive response, like a paycheck or a grade; or if there's immediate avoidance of a negative response, like a scolding or arrest. It is harder when we can't readily see the importance of our effort.
If you've ever played on a sports team or in an orchestra, you know how intrinsic your part is to the success of the whole. Even in the sea of strings, every violin adds to the strength, power, and poignancy of the music. Even if the listener can't identify your alto line, your presence in the choir has been written into the score because your unidentifiable contribution is of utmost importance to the impact.
Voting requires all of us to add our unidentifiable singular voice to the choir for the benefit of the whole. That is the foundational concept of a democratic nation.
Voting is a gift to us from those from before who overcame their own hard-wired impulse for inertia. Every vote -- even those who had the right since the beginning of this nation -- was hard-earned through some kind of revolutionary battle. Our forefathers and foremothers overcame their own impulse for inertia because the desire for freedom for themselves and future unknown generations was greater than their individual impulse to conserve energy. Our forebears understood that it would take effort to have a say in the rules and people that govern their individual lives. Freedom was worth the effort of interrupting their daily schedule. Those forebears in demographics that had less historical power had to sustain the effort to battle their own inertia longer than the original American revolutionaries. But regardless of demographic, because of the efforts of our forefathers and foremothers, none of us today has to battle the United Kingdom or argue with the Supreme Court to gain the right.
We, this week, have a much smaller task. We do not have to fight for the right to vote. We just have to know our values, weigh them against the values of the candidates running, show up at the polls, and cast our ballots.
The US, as a whole, doesn't encourage us to vote. It would, of course, be easier if we could vote online from the comfort of our homes -- imagine if it was as easy as voting on The Voice. Some states have introduced more accessible methods, and some states have made it harder, but either way, we each have the obligation to follow through on the gift that history has given us.
Your personal schedule will be interrupted. You will have to read the ballot, pay attention, and assess it critically against your values. You will have to disregard the advertisements, which utilize advertising psychology and attempt to sway your emotions, and rationally assess what's at stake. To do this, you will have to find the right voter guide to help you with your selections. You will likely need to drive out of your way, or take a bus, or walk, enter an unfamiliar building, and interact with strangers. You might need to leave work early, or figure out what to do with the kids.
Every day of your life you overcome the impulse for inertia. You can do it now, too.
Elections only come around every so often, like mammograms, or colonoscopies, or a visit from the in-laws (or the outlaws). Unlike the former, voting will cause no discomfort to your physical body. Unlike the latter, it doesn't drink all your beer.
And on the way home, with your I Voted sticker proudly displayed on your lapel, you can go out of your way once more -- this time to pick up a sweet reward for your efforts. Go on, eat that doughnut. You deserve it.
Thank you for voting.