Was it all for nothing? Election Reflections from Texas - by Margret Hofmann, Austin

(Don't bother to read this if you live in a "swing state")

I never thought that I would prefer the "Nexium" commercials on TV over ANYthing, but after being exposed to a couple of political ads, extolling the glorious qualities of the one, and ridiculing the ineptitudes of the other candidate, I think I will not only prefer the ads for the "purple pill", no, I will even need to TAKE one!

Ah, for the blessings of not living in a "swing state"! For not being plagued with calls from a candidate's phone bank! Texas, the home state of President Bush, is considered to be resting firmly in the Republicans' pocket. Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians don't have to waste their time registering people to vote, and, on election day, they won't even need to go to the polls. Isn't this great?

Texans don't have to bother setting a good example for their children, and they don't have to make sure that adult members of their families, their friends and neighbors get to the polls. What a relief! Administration opponents can just sit back and relax, and not even harbor any guilt feelings. And a lot of Republicans can do the same, because they have been assured for months that they have already won Texas. Meanwhile, whether certain other states will be in the "blue column" or in the "red column" has long been settled as well.

But, wait a minute. Is this really what we want to teach our children? "Forget about voting. Pollsters have all but determined the outcome of the election." Is this the democratic way of which we are so proud? The way we are dying (literally) to introduce to other countries? If this is not the legacy we want to leave for future generations, then we need to realize that we still have it in our power to turn every pundit's prediction on its head! We can do it, if 90% of all registered Texans would vote in the upcoming Presidential election!

Recently on TV we saw thousands of Afghan citizens waiting for hours to cast votes for the first time in their lives. Many women wore their burqas for fear that someone might recognize and attack them for having the audacity to vote. Most Afghans had come great distances, risking their lives every step of the way. While in our own country, all we have to do is to drive a few blocks and cast our ballots any time during a 12-hour day. Many conveniences have been devised to make voting a comfortable experience.

But will there be long lines of American citizens who are indeed eager to vote? Who have taken the trouble to study the issues, so as to be well informed? Or have we already forgotten how, ten years ago, the people of South Africa stood in the boiling heat for many hours so as to be able to cast their ballots? And how millions, the world over, (and this included my parents in Nazi Germany,) yearned and are still longing for the privilege to have a small voice in determining who will be their leader?

Are we not embarrassed when we realize that many of these people have heard that our election campaigns may cost billions of dollars which are spent during many months of literally brainwashing potential voters with cleverly crafted ads? That they have learned of the convenience of absentee ballots and, at least in Texas, of "early voting", a system which allows everyone to cast his or her vote at any time during several days,or even weeks, preceding the actual election day? Nevertheless, often far fewer than half of all registered voters bother to make the small effort to do their civic privilege.

It has not been so long ago that women risked, and sometimes even lost their lives in order to obtain the right to vote. And when they succeeded, no one doubted that they would exercise that right whenever an election was held. Their daughters would be worthy of their mothers' sacrifices. They would make their influence felt at every opportunity. They would see to it that there would be civility and that wars would be avoided. Where are most of these women now? ---

And the African Americans and other minorities who struggled so hard to be allowed to show that they were American citizens in every way. It hasn't been that long since policemen's clubs, menacing dogs and high pressure water hoses were trained on them, that buses were set on fire because their occupants, blacks and dedicated whites alike had come to help their fellow citizens register to vote and, later, accompany them to the ballot box. Where are their sons and daughters? Were their parents' > sacrifices ---- some paid for their courage with their lives ---- for nothing? ---

Where are the young people who had persuaded their legislators that they were entitled to vote when they turned 18? They argued that, if they were old enough to fight in Vietnam, they surely were old enough to cast a ballot. Where will they and their voting-age children be on election day?

Let's not allow the pollsters and the pundits declare whom we have already elected to become the President of our country. Let's surprise them, along with everybody who puts more faith into them than into their own ability to get out the vote. Let's shock them with a 90% turnout! (And why stop there?)

Let's once more remember the Afghans who are risking their lives, the South Africans who waited for hours in the blistering heat, the women who were brutally force-fed because they believed in their own, their daughters' and their granddaughters' right to vote. Let's recall once more the African Americans who put their lives on the line in order to be treated like the white American citizens with whom they had fought in both World Wars. And were many of us not those 18-year-olds in 1971, in whom our parents placed their faith, enabling us to participate in the political process?

The best way to thank our courageous forebears, to show our appreciation for what they did for us and for future generations, is to do that for which they were willing to, and often did, sacrifice their lives.

On election day, let's be sure that we make it OUR decision who will be our next President!

Margret Hofmann is a former member of the Austin City Council and active in the Fellowship of Reconciliation - Central Texas. A resident of Germany during WWII, Mrs. Hofmann both who witnessed Kristallnacht as a 13 year old in Dusseldorf and survived the Nazi occupation. She is author of many editorials and speaks regularly on the Holocaust.


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