Ivy Day in the Committee Room

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.

6 thoughts on “Ivy Day in the Committee Room

  1. Having spent a good portion of my life living in MA, I understand fully the feeling that my vote was always for naught, yet still I persevered and voted at every election. I empathize with those who feel it’s all a corrupt “game” that they do not wish to play, but sitting on the sidelines (which is certainly anyone’s right to do so) seems like throwing in the towel. People that purposely do not vote believe that they are withdrawing their consent, but I would argue that if you do not vote you are giving a silent assent to what is happening. Even when I know my vote is meaningless in terms of determining the desired outcome, I vote to register my dissent. I am not willing to throw up my hands and bow out in disgust even though I am disgusted. While I breathe, I live; while I live, I fight. Even with something as small as my single, “meaningless” vote.

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  3. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    I have voted in most elections, well, had my name signed off and voted for the ballsiest name or party on the list. And left with my hands in my pockets.

    To lift our spirits, how about a recollection of the chipped beef tradition at your house since Thanksgiving is coming up?

  4. Voting just makes you a stupid citizen, not a good one. This system is so corrupt and broken that any person with a conscience can’t support it anymore. We may have to pay our taxes, but we don’t have to swallow the lie.

  5. I believe in the States you have voting machines though perhaps not everywhere, but here in the UK for now we have the good old stubby pencil on a bit of string and the space to draw a cross on the ballot paper (oddly, I always felt a cross was a negative mark as the last person you’d want representing you, but apparently a tick for correct is not allowed.)

    Anyway, the joy of being able to write on the ballot paper means that some people deliberately write nasty, or perhaps accurate comments, about the state of government. I haven’t yet indulged, though a relative of mine has, and we speculated afterwards whether these comments are kept as guidelines, ignored or chuckled over. There may be several hundred of such ‘spoilt papers’ in each district, depending on turn out.

    In there UK though the Labour government increased the number of postal votes in a move to cynically improve their vote. It was hoped to have the local religious leader (who probably speaks English) to gather up the blank postal forms on behalf of the many who don’t and fill them out with a cross in the Labour candidate box. Eventually, like your Mayans and Aztecs, such move will cancel out the non-Labour vote though more than myself are beginning to recognise that the next stage is for this country to have non-Labour candidates for some religious based doctrine and they will get the votes, naturally.

    A man called George Galloway, a former Scottish socialist who once famously saluted Saddam, desperately panders to this ideal but even he may find growing a beard isn’t enough to keep his seat in parliament. I expect any spoiled ballots in his constituency may reflect this.

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