Apart from my post urging people to register to vote, I have stayed away from election-related issues here. But I find that I do have something to say, so, without resorting to hyperbole, I’ll do my best to say it.
Often when you do some sort of task online, there are boxes to check. If you don’t find them all before you click next, things go red and a little message pops up to scold you and tell you that you haven’t found and checked all the boxes. What is more, you have to figure out just what you’re agreeing to by clicking that box. And sometimes a dialog box comes up to ask if you’re sure before the deed is actually done. That can be helpful.
When it comes to your ballot on election day, even if you haven’t given much thought to who’s running for Sheriff in your district, by now I’m assuming everyone has decided about the box they’re going to check for a presidential candidate. But as your polling place will likely have no box popping up to ask you if you’re sure,* I want to say a few words about those little boxes and what they mean.
I think a lot of people this year are looking for the box they can check to say, “I’m unhappy with how things are going. I don’t think my government is responsive to my concerns. I don’t trust the leaders we’ve had for many years, and I want things to change.” As strongly as I can say it, the box next to the name Donald Trump IS NOT THAT BOX.
I can completely understand those dissatisfied statements, and I’m sympathetic to that view–there are big problems, and big improvements should be made. But a box to communicate those sentiments does not appear on any ballot in this land. How great it would be if it did!
I acknowledge that not everyone thinks like me, and that many might see me as wrong here. But I ask you to consider: checking the box that appears next to the name of Donald Trump could be understood as your way of saying this:
“I want my country to be represented to the rest of the world by this person.”
“This is the person who exercises forethought and thinks through the implications of statements and choices he will make as leader of the USA.”
“This person has the temperament and experience to be trusted with the nuclear launch codes.”
Having said that, I know that the boxes next to the candidates’ names do not say, “this person has made no mistakes,” or “this person I trust entirely,” or “this person I agree with in all things; s/he represents the ideal direction for our country’s future.”
I have looked at the sample ballot for this election, and there is no box on it that will let me say, “I don’t like anyone listed here. What are my other options?” One of these people will be president-elect by the end of the week, and nothing about any ballot that any of us will be handed can change that. Our system of voting can allow for the communicating of a limited set of ideas; it cannot communicate “I demand change” with much nuance.
The best we can do is to take great care that we know what the box we check is actually saying. Think about checking the box next to Trump’s name with the idea that it says, “This is the man who I think should be the most powerful person on the planet; he has shown himself to be qualified for the job.”
As persuasively as I am able, I invite you to explain how you feel. Go on at great length in writing, in a letter, in your journal, in sky-writing if you can afford it. Make a record of this time in your life and in the history of this country. Tell it like you see it. But when you get into the voting booth, consider what a check in the box by the candidate’s name is actually saying, and pause before you make your mark.
*Though there is a back button of sorts: If you fill in the oval next to a candidate by mistake, I think you can take your ballot back to the table where they gave it to you and say you’ve mucked it up, and they’ll get you a new one.
[Images: clker.com, burlingtonvt.gov, askubuntu.com]