Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pondering How I Will Vote

It has occurred to me that I vote a lot more often than I had realized. Of course, it is election season here in the U.S. and that has me thinking about voting. However, I thought about all the other ways I vote, moment by moment, day by day.

Every time I purchase something, I am casting a vote: Yes, I want this coffee shop to be on this corner and I approve, or at least I am willing to tolerate, how they conduct their business. Ditto for buying something in a Walmart or at a Safeway. Businesses generally cannot survive unless enough people vote for them with their money.

I can vote with my actions, but also with my inaction. Passivity in the face of tyranny or oppression is a vote for continued tyranny and oppression. Keeping quiet when the truth must be told is a vote for dishonesty. My vote may not be enough to effect immediate change. Perhaps it seldom will be. Is that any reason to vote for things I hate?

I vote with what I think to be very private thoughts, including those I am not conscious of. Even the very best poker players have "tells": tiny little motions that indicate whether they have a good hand or not. Most of us maintain nothing like a poker face. A grimace, a small smile, a glance, or a nod, can all indicate how I have voted in my mind. No matter how hard I try to mask my feelings, my tone of voice, the length of pause before I answer, a slight stiffening of my back muscles will betray my vote to those who are aware such things. Most of us are much more aware of those signs that we realize. Often it is not conscious, but we factor them into our appraisal of any situation.

Are such tiny things as facial expressions really votes of any import? Yes. Of course they are. We may have a hard time explaining how we know the difference between a condescending smile and a smile of approval, but our lives can be changed by one or the other. A job interview or a marriage proposal may heighten our sensitivity. However, even a stranger's glance at our clothes may impact us. And even if it does not impact us greatly, it will still be one of many small impacts that influence the course of our life.

Vow, devotion, and vote all share etymological roots. We speak of personal vows, private devotions, and secret votes. However, even then, our words, our posture, and most certainly our actions will announce our intentions to the world.

The greatest teacher the world has known advised us as follows: "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." Will I say "Yes" with my eyes, my money, or my time while saying "No" with my mouth? Far too often that is exactly what I do. I am a hypocrite. It would be hypocrisy to proclaim otherwise.

May God grant me the grace to vote for that which is good and vote against that which is evil. May he conform my mind to the mind of Christ, so that I will say "Yes" or "No" with all my heart and all my soul. May God forgive me for the foolish votes I cast. Each has an eternal impact. Only God can redeem them.
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