Was it all for nothing? Election
Reflections from Texas - by Margret Hofmann,
(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
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
Margret Hofmann is a former member
of the Austin City Council and active in the
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.