Choosing to Choose


Since an early age we are all faced with choices. To move ahead in life we need to make decisions. Some are easy – what to wear, what to have for dinner, what movie to choose – and the consequences of making the wrong choices aren’t severe.

Most of us have survived showing up over or under dressed to a party, while our dinner choice may not be to our liking – the next meal will be coming along in a couple hours and we have a new opportunity. A new movie will be showing soon at our local cinema.

Some choices are moderately harder – what car to drive, what house to buy, what appliances to choose – a wrong choice here can create some financial hardship; it won’t usually disrupt your life. Cars can be re-sold, traded; they can be passed on to a spouse or child or you can just decide to drive the vehicle. House remodels, renovations are big business – a can of paint can be a cheap fix or a sympathetic real estate agent can become your new best friend. Until they malfunction, the wrong appliance is just a nuisance.

Larger choices require more time and thought – choice of college and career, life partner, to have children or not, personal belief system and political leanings – poor choices here can have long term consequences.

College, fore example, can leave you with huge debt. If you land a job you hate you will be miserable every day and that student loan will still be looming over you. A life partner and the issue of children can impact your entire future and leave you with a host of problems. Recovery from these choices can take enormous amounts of time, money and energy.

One choice should be clear for adults – choosing to vote.

The choice of candidate is up to you and that’s certainly a topic for extensive debate. No matter what side of the political aisle you are on, the only moral, American decision to be made here is to exercise your right to vote. Several political strategists have recently termed voting… “the obligation every American has to their country.”

The argument can be made that our system isn’t perfect – the Electoral College creates its own set of problems, a majority of the popular vote doesn’t always guarantee your election. Party primaries may decide a candidate prematurely and push viable candidates out of the race.

Campaigns cost an unbelievable amount of money and it is possible for candidates to have a wide range of resources. Donations can influence a candidate’s position. The incumbent does have an unfair advantage with name recognition and stature. Good people may be discouraged by the negative aspects surrounding the entire process.

However flawed the American political process is – it’s the one we have to work with and the one we use.

While I realize nothing is absolute – for every rule an exception exists – I am confident in saying that (as a rule) American voters have access to clean, comfortable polling places, the hours the polling places are open is standard, uniform and not deliberately inconvenient, Americans do not walk for days to cast their vote, they do not wait long hours in the hot sun or in torrential rains, they believe in the secret ballot and do not fear their decisions will become public and put their life at risk.

We are voting for candidates who have already been tapped by the American people. The primary process allowed us the opportunity to choose; all the candidates are on the ballot through the will of the people.

Our presidential candidates have not made this an easy choice for anyone. At times the political rhetoric is deafening and the only solution seems to be not to engage. But not voting isn’t a good choice – for the candidates, for you and for the country.

I am not a political scientist or a strategist or even a historian who can tell you stories and relate the long term effects and consequences of not voting but I do believe there is truth behind the sayings:

Use it or Lose it
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
Freedom is like air, you don’t miss it until it’s gone!

Whatever your position, whomever you support – exercise your right, fulfill your obligation as an American and go to the polls on November 8.

Enjoy the read.

Katie Smith
Guest Contributor
Jamestown Gazette

PS: For another insightful look at the highly personal side of voting, please see Pastor Scott Hannon’s “Finger Pointing” on page 7.