Sometimes you vote, sometimes you don’t

Categorized as  voting, 11/03/08 Goshen News column

Tomorrow is a big day. It’s the day that we get to exercise that great right of American citizenship – the right to vote. It’s also a day of liberation as we will finally be delivered from the relentless political ads and the countless talking heads on every major network. I figure we’ve got about two weeks of silence before the next election cycle starts up again.

Reflecting on the amazing privilege we as Americans have of choosing our own leaders has made me grateful again for this country. In many countries, governments are run by dictators who rule with an iron fist and shotguns. Contrary to what a couple of boys I know seem to think, these are all located overseas.

For some reason, the political process got me thinking this week about all the things in life that we don’t get a vote on. Take, for instance, your family of origin. There is, to my knowledge, no in utero voting. When you exit that birth canal, you have already been assigned to the breathless, eager family that is assembled, most of them in the waiting room with a few of them that everyone wishes were on the Outer Banks.

Through no choice of your own, you become a branch on your particular family tree. As you grow older and become more aware, you realize that some family trees have more nuts than others. You didn’t choose, for example, to have an Uncle Joe that spits when he talks or an Aunt Susie who snorts when she laughs or a Cousin Felix who is a professional forger.

Other people’s family gatherings are quiet and decorous with polite conversation by polite, well-dressed people around a spotless tablecloth that somehow always stays that way. Your family gatherings are loud. They talk loud and laugh louder. There is gravy on the tablecloth in the first five minutes and gravy on your shirt. There is at least one high-volume political debate before everyone leaves. That’s your family tree.

You also get no vote on your DNA. Whether you are tall, short, chunky, or skinny is largely determined by your genes. Sure, you were hoping that Aunt Fannie’s posterior would skip a generation or that somehow the physique of an NFL linebacker would have been spliced into your genes somewhere. That’s natural.

If you, like me, are vertically challenged, you will understand how all-important the half-inch is. Mr. Schrock laughs when I declare myself to be 4 feet 11-1/2 inches. That’s okay. People have told me that dynamite comes in small packages. I’m operating on the theory that the Good Lord puts a little more kaboom in short people to help us compensate.

On the opposite end of the birth canal, we as parents have no say on just who is making their debut. They come with preset temperaments, these little sprouts on our tree, and it’s anyone’s guess on what you’ll find. It could be a trick. It could be a treat.

We should all with one voice thank the Lord above that there are a couple of things we do get to choose. Let’s start with your spouse. Depending on where you lived, your parents would do your choosing for you. Just imagine! You could wake up as a 13 year old one morning and find that you’ve been bequeathed to a 53-year-old mule trainer, and all because he offered more camels than that 67-year-old carpet weaver with 2 double chins that was also vying for your hand.

The other thing that should have every American citizen falling to their knees in gratitude is the freedom to choose their own vocation. The opportunities are limitless here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We value innovation and initiative, we Americans, and we place a premium on good, old-fashioned gumption.

Here, you can be anything you want. If you have superior talents, you can reap great rewards. Where else can you earn millions of dollars for throwing around a leather object and wallowing around in the mud with other huge, testosterone-charged men who have muscles in their eyelids, hmm?

If football’s not your thing (wrong genes, perhaps), you can be a chemist, a painter, or a welder. You can run a laundromat or be a baker. You could even, believe it or not, be a pet massage therapist. Yes, you can! I believe in you.

On this election eve, we have a lot to be thankful for. Regardless of who wins, regardless of the nuts on your family tree, and regardless of the anomalies in your physique, there will still be overpaid, overgrown men wallowing in the mud on Thanksgiving. There will still be coffee in the pot. The sun will come up again, and – hey, at least you’re not married to a mule trainer.

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