"You’re an idiot!”
OK, I have been called worse over the years. This time it had to do with my anti-smoking article. A sentiment held by a few others, I might add. I shot back with my favorite retort, “Why?”
“I have rights, and the city can’t take them away from me.”
I was not going to win this on Constitutional or public health grounds, so I tried a different tactic. “Did you go to the City Council meetings? Did you vote for City Council — ever?” If you ask a question, you better know the answer.
“No. I didn’t like any of the idiots that were runnin’.”
There’s that word again. Idiot: A person with subnormal deliberative skills. I just wonder ... Could it be a self-description: Someone who does not care unless it is personal?
In 1970, I was among 20 student observers from NYU and New York Institute of Technology of the presidential elections in the Republic of Haiti. We visited three polling places in the capital Port-au-Prince on election Sunday and watched as armed police and military patrolled each site. Not to keep peace, but to intimidate.
We were handed ballots at each location and advised that “You are Americans so you can vote also.” We didn’t, but the ballot proved a great reading. It glorified the qualifications of the single presidential candidate. He was a high school graduate, spoke multiple languages, was marrying into a wealthy family and, oh yes, his father was the current Life President of Haiti. It asked one question, “Should Jean-Claude Duvalier be the next Life President of Haiti?” It had one answer, “Response: Yes.” There was no “Response: No.” Baby Doc won with 97% of the vote. We later wondered what happened to the 3% who wrote in “No.”
Twenty years later, Haiti had its first democratic election after the Duvalier abdication. I watched as thousands of citizens lined up for miles and extended two days to accommodate the rights of the people to vote. It was a lesson in the democratic process.
I have participated in the American political system and voted in almost every election since I turned 18. It is my civic and patriotic duty to do so. We fought a war in 1776 over this very issue. We are angered when a segment of the population is denied access to the polls and have changed our Constitution and laws to reflect our high moral standards for the free selection of our political leaders. So why do Americans believe that their individual voices are so ... unimportant?
I don’t know. I do know that we select who is running for elected office at local, state and federal levels. I do know that we decide who will represent our interest under “The Dome” in a fair (usually) and open (normally) process. I do know that your single vote does count and someone else cannot “cancel” your voice. An election is a contest between the competing parties and ideas and applies simple math. 50 percent + 1 = Winner. You are the “1.”
I will be casting my vote early February 5 in the presidential primaries. I will do it again on March 4, April 8, August 5 and November 4, all election days in Missouri. I know I’ll see you at the polls because you are a true American patriot. Now, how about our neighbors? Imagine what would have happened if everyone eligible voted in Florida in November 2000?
Don’t tell me that your vote does not count. Don’t tell me your voice is not heard. Don’t tell me that there are no qualified candidates running. If you don’t participate, you lost your right to complain. If you voice your opinions to the wrong audience, your words are for naught. If you don’t like the selection, run for office! Or are you an “idiot”?
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.