Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Privilege and Responsibility

I wasn't planning on voting today.

As a life-long conservative, who has spent the last twenty years or so as a member of the Republican Party, the prospect of voting for Senator John McCain has struck me as more than a little unpalatable ever since it became clear early in the summer that he would be the Republican nominee.

My dissatisfaction with the Republican Party has reached the point where I am seriously considering changing my pilitical affiliation to Independent, as it was in my younger days. The party of small government now seems to be filled with weak-willed men and women who refuse to make the fiscally responsible decisions necessary to ensure the financial stability of this country; instead making ill-advised choices that are based on something other than the best interests of this country.

You may or may not know I am employed as an FAA air traffic controller. What this Republican administration has done to the career to which I have devoted my entire adult life is shameful. It is hard for me to imagine any legitimate argument for air-traffic control as anything other than an inherently governmental enterprise, much like law enforcement and fire protection.

And yet, under this administration, the mantra of "Running it like a business" has been enthusiastically adopted, resulting in the trampling of employees rights, and the unprecedented (and I believe illegal) payment of COLA's which have the effect of drastically slashing my retirement income, among many other offenses. All in the name of "Running it like a business." A business that produces no tangible product - other than safety.

If you disagree, simply ask yourself this question: When I am flying to Disney with the kiddies for my vacation, and there are thunderstorms everywhere and the air carrier jet I'm riding in has lost an engine and dozens of airplanes are surrounding mine like mosquitoes at a spring barbecue, do I want the lives of myself and my precious loved ones in the hands of the lowest bidder? I wouldn't.

Anyway, this illustrates the depth of my disgust with the Republicans in Washington. On the other hand, could I really bring myself to vote for Senator Barack Obama, the man who has steadfastly promoted himself to an America sick of George W. Bush as an agent of change, without really specifying what sort of change he's talking about?

You see, Senator Obama has forged a record during his short stay in the United States Senate as the most liberal member of that body. More so than Hilary Clinton, more so than Edward Kennedy, more so than John Kerry. If you consider yourself a liberal, that's wonderful, but for a conservative like me, it provides no legitimate alternative to Senator McCain. The funny thing is, my disgust with the Republican Party is so complete that had the Democrats nominated a more centrist candidate I would most certainly have voted for him or her.

So I was going to sit this election out.

Then I began thinking about all the young men and women serving thousands of miles away in foreign countries most of them probably knew nothing about until they were assigned to go there.

I started thinking about the thousands upon thousands of Americans who have given their lives defending the Constitution of this country, oftentimes while disagreeing personally with the policies that led to their deployment.

I started thinking aout my own father, who served long ago in a war and saw things that, right up to the day he died, he refused to talk about. Ever.

I started thinking about all that stuff and I realized that it would be an insult to the memories of every single one of them for me to stay home today; that I would be disrespecting everyone who has spilled his or her blood in this or another land so that I could be guaranteed the opportunity to cast a ballot in a free election.

So I voted.

I voted with a reluctance that I have never felt in the twenty-eight years since I became eligible to do so. I voted because even though the choice in this Presidential Election, in my opinion, is between two campaigns who will both take this country in the wrong direction, I have discovered that I believe strongly in the notion of voting as a privilege as well as a civic responsibility. It is not just for those partisans who are rah-rahing their candidate on to victory, but also for those of us who maybe have to hold our noses this election cycle when we enter the voting booth.

I voted because I have a child who is participating in her first presidential election, and two more who wil participate in their first presidential elections next time around. I don't want them to look at their dad as a non-participant in the process that is so special and so important.

It wasn't easy, but I voted. And if you are a veteran, thank you. And if your father or mother or husband or wife or son or daughter or neighbor or cousin is a veteran, please thank him or her for me.

And whoever wins this election, congratulations. When the celebrating and crowing is over, come January, 2009, please, please, please put this country first.

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