OGDEN COLUMN: Today, I vote for many reasons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Perhaps we owe the news junkies and their perpetrators, the twenty-four hour cable news stations, a sincere vote of thanks for promoting the elements of our democracy, which, somehow, seem to have fallen off track. I refer to the indifference, which accompanies our elections in recent times. And now, there is even a group promoting the idea of not voting at all and they have bought television time to spread their message!

Regardless of one&8217;s convictions, those who founded this country knew the necessity of participation in a republican form of democracy. Simply, if we do not participate, the real voice of the people is never heard. We only hear the wishes of the few.

I always promote the idea of voting to my students. It is a tribute to my ninth grade civics teacher, Mr. Ludlow, that the notion of voting in a democracy is not only a privilege, but an obligation, a duty. And it is this spirit that I try to instill in my students. Most of the younger eligible voters look at me rather like brook trout when I ask them if they vote on a regular basis. Them I give them my &8220;pizza parallel.&8221;

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In any given class, I have an average of twenty-six students. I ask if they prefer pepperoni or cheese pizza. Then, I put the task to them of choosing which kind of pizza will be purchased for the entire class. But first, I put the parameters of voting percentages on the class. If there are twenty-six students and I am added to the selection process then we have twenty-seven potential votes to gain acceptance. That would mean that fourteen of the eligible voters would make the majority decision. Using the general percentages of voter turn out for local or mid-term elections, I will tell them that a little less than fifty percent, or roughly thirteen voters will turn in their votes. This means that seven votes will determine what then entire class of twenty-seven will eat! And that usually gets their attention!

All this means that instead of six &8212; the minority number of thirteen votes &8212; being unhappy with the outcome of the pizza vote, clearly twenty will be unhappy! All because a little less than fifty percent of the eligible voters will, in fact, vote.

Of course, not voting is just as much a privilege as voting, but it seems to me that my vote does count. Regardless of what the pundits and cynics rant, I still believe in our republic, as well as in my privilege, obligation, duty to cast my ballot whenever given the opportunity!

Is that too maudlin, too vulgarly flag-waving, too patriotic? Well, consider the options. If we had a country in which I had no vote, but knew of an opportunity to vote, what then? Would I long to be in the circumstance of that opportunity? Absolutely! And this is just what those immigrants who have come to America claiming political asylum have done! They have seen the opportunity to exercise their voices in a governing process and have opted to risk everything to get here.

I made a friend in the fourth grade. His name was Chubba Boder. He was a refugee from Hungary and his family had escaped to America after the Hungarian uprising in the 1950&8217;s was crushed by Moscow. Early in our friendship, Chubba struggled with the English language, but by the Thanksgiving break he had learned enough to explain in detail what it meant to be here, and first on his list was voting!

Now, for a youngster in the fourth grade from a dictatorial regime to be able to recognize this fact is astounding in itself. What is more astounding is the fact that today, when we have the opportunity to celebrate what our freedom means, almost sixty percent of our eligible voting citizens will find something else to do. To me, that is unacceptable!

Maybe it is a function of the two-party system which espouses participation on Election Day, but which opposes having a National Holiday on election days. Maybe it is a function of our total apathy when it comes to participatory democracy. And maybe it is a function of our feeling of alienation from the general governing process.

Whatever source of rationalizing we claim, the failure to exercise one&8217;s sacred right to express a voice in our electoral process is an egregious affront to our concepts of democracy, to the vision of the founders of this country, and to the thousands of brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives to perpetuate this process.

And so today, I vote! Again! If for no other reason than to honor those concepts, that vision, and those sacrifices which have insured that I have the opportunity to participate in the process of power in my great country!

God bless America, for today I vote!

Dr. Arthur G. Ogden is the Director of Alabama Southern&8217;s Demopolis Campus. His degrees are all in philosophy. He can be contacted at aogden@ascc.edu.