I recall John Derbyshire discussing his fondness for Anglican Hymns, despite not being an Anglican. He related a story from a friend who continued to attend regular services, despite no longer believing in God. The friend said it was out of loyalty to the old tribe. Similarly, Derb has a fondness for the Christian rituals of his people out of a loyalty to and fondness for the tradition. That, I suspect, is something all of us have for something or another in our lives. Maybe it is a holiday tradition or family tradition that no longer makes much sense or possibly never made any sense.
An example in my own life is the making of chipped beef on toast over Thanksgiving. My father loved that breakfast. It is classic enlisted man food that carried into the American working class after World War II. I have few fond memories of my father, but it reminds me of better times for some reason. It is a tradition I have upheld to this day. Again, there’s nothing rational about it, but there’s an emotional tug that is impossible to resist.
I’ve been thinking about that today as the election draws near. I have voted since I was able to vote. I’ve voted in off-year elections and municipal elections, even when the stakes were so low that barely anyone else bothered to vote. I voted in the 1990’s when it was clear to me the GOP was rejecting every lesson learned in the Reagan years and were sprinting to catch the Liberal Democrats. I voted when that stone stupid sock puppet George Bush was president. I even voted in 2008 when the choice was between a dimwitted neophyte with nothing more than race on his side and an insane old man who barely knows where he is most of the time.
In 2012 I went to my polling place with the enthusiasm of a man heading for the gallows. Romney was not much of an upgrade to Obama in my view, but I’ve had to select between worse choices. I once had Ted Kennedy as my senator and Joe Kennedy as my Congressman. Imagine that. Plus, the chance to maybe get rid of the execrable Barak Obama was something.
As I was walking in I spotted a school bus unloading a bunch of Aztecs and Mayans. An old white woman was handing them instructions and speaking to them in bad Spanish. Clearly the Democrat GOTV effort was set to eleven. Bussing in illegal aliens in a district with 99% Democrat electorate is going the extra mile.
Inside I got in-line behind a chubby white girl with a fuchsia afro and a tackle box full of metal in her face. She was furiously tapping on her phone to some other dimwit. Behind me the Mayans were filing in, jibber-jabbering to one another in Mam. The poll workers were shuffling around from station to station, doing something. Every once in a while one of them would bark out a command. The pointlessness of it was overwhelming. The nitwit in front of me and the Mayans behind would surely cancel my vote many times over. I walked out without voting.
That was the first election I had skipped as an adult and I felt bad about it, but I was done voting. It is one thing to hang with an old pointless custom out of sentimentality. It is quite another to infuriate yourself doing something you vaguely sense is doing you harm. I skipped the last primary, despite some nagging sense of obligation creeping in on me. The lack of contested races made it easier. I live in a one party state so not voting is a bit easier, but the old sense of obligation was creeping in on me again.
Still, that old sense of obligation is there. It is not that my vote counts or that I really care who wins. That’s not my fault. Forces beyond my control have made my citizenship worthless. What I can control is how I discharge my duties and obligations. That means I’ll probably stop at my polling place in the morning and cast my ballot. The choices may be awful and I may hate having to vote for any of them, but at least I will have done my duty. My country may not care much for me and citizenship may mean nothing, but I still can be a good citizen. At least I’ll have that.