Wednesday, November 3, 2004

The day AFTER

Commentary by JoEllen Collins


JoEllen Collins

Commentary by JOELLEN COLLINS

The movie ?The Day After, Tomorrow? traces the apocalyptic ravages of a tidal wave and storms that wipe out most of the population of New York, among other places. Graphic computer-generated images of the streets of Manhattan underwater infuse the film with dread.

I feel similarly flooded after the weeks of intense campaigning as I think about yesterday?s day after tomorrow! It is the day after probably the most intense race for president I have witnessed in my life. By now, many of us are either lamenting over lattes or cheering over cappuccinos.

As I write this some five days before the voting, I am also aware that, if we are unlucky, the outcome may not yet be known and all of us may still be questioning the results. I hope that is not the case. Five years ago I would not have thought about that third option after victory or defeat--uncertainty. But I am afraid it will be in our thoughts for some time.

What I want to write about today is the citizen who may be upset with whatever the results are and may, indeed, find his future negatively affected by the next administration?s policies. That person is the one who did not vote and yet still bewails the government he lives under. I have heard some Democrats say that Idaho doesn?t count anyway, since it is surely mostly Republican, so they won?t vote. I hope they changed their minds. Perhaps they should be reminded that constituencies can actually change: The Idaho Statesman, long a conservative paper, ?reluctantly? recommended Kerry because of what they consider weaknesses and unfulfilled promises in the Bush tenure over these past 4 years. Who would have not expected a Bush endorsemenr? Also I have heard a Republican or two say that the state is going for Bush anyway, so no big deal: why vote? Why not?

Certainly, whatever the electoral college system gives as options for the presidential candidates, there are propositions and local issues at stake which directly affect people living here. Why should not your voice be heard?

Over my long life on this earth, I have seen many political changes. I was a young woman when Kennedy was elected and then so brutally assassinated after such a short time in office. I have lived through the presidencies of people I disagreed with or even disliked. I have also experienced disappointments with some of the presidents I helped to elect. Never, though, have I entirely lost faith that we would get beyond whatever the temporary setbacks were in each presidency. Our country has always survived even the worst presidents. I have remained fairly optimistic over the years, though I now fear that I am growing a bit more cynical and fearful that we are in a more precarious time and thus must, absolutely must, have strong leadership.

One truth has remained consistent throughout my voting life. Every time--every time--I leave the polling place I experience a swell of patriotism and pride that I live in a country where we still have the option and, indeed the responsibility to vote. It reminds me of the time I was in Arlington National Cemetery at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on the 4th of July. Taps were played and amidst my sentimental tears, I felt as though little American flags were popping out of my ears. I am patriotic, was so even in the 60s, though I and several of my friends, nursing babies and gathering in our homespun dresses, were active in a protest movement called Another Mother for Peace. I am sorry to say that our dreams of a peaceful world were naïve, at the least. But I have never failed to be stirred by voting. I love it. Men have died to protect this cherished right, and I always recall that fact when I mark my ballot. The first time I ever voted was near the Veterans? Cemetery adjacent to UCLA, where hundreds of rows of white crosses are a vivid manifestation of the sacrifices made for freedom.

Whatever you?re feeling today, I hope you can at least say, ?Well, I spoke. I cast my vote.? If you didn?t, you have no one to blame but yourself for the outcome. If you are joyous, and did not vote, lucky you. It could easily have been the ?other guys? who won.

We all win if we vote.




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