I’m not kidding. Vote.
No really. VOTE!
This is it. In less than a week we have the chance to have a whole new world. And I’m not just talking about the presidential election (because to be frank, I don’t think Kerry will do too many things different from Bush). Every election always has that one Big Race. The one everyone’s watching. And certainly it’s important that we get out and vote for president. And certainly it’s important for progressive folks to get out there and vote against Bush. But don’t forget that each election has more at stake than merely the Big Race.
Where ever you live, I don’t doubt that there’s a least a handful, and in some places dozens, of local elections, Congressional seats and Senate slots, initiatives, propositions, and even school board committee seats up for grab. These elections are just as important as the Big Race, and often much more important.
Face it. Even if No Child Left Behind was a good idea, even if it really didn’t leave any kids behind, once the school board gets the check, who’s in charge of the checkbook? Do you even know who your local school board representatives are?
Then again, maybe you don’t have kids so it’s not as important for you to know. Do you know who your local state representative is? How about the police commissioner? Local judges? Anyone? These are people who really do have an impact on your life day in and day out in ways you may not even know. And it’s super easy to point the finger all the way to the top. It’s super easy to say “A shortage of flu shots is Bush’s fault!” or “A shortage of flu shots is lawyers’ like Edwards fault.” But the reality is that very often the buck stops considerably lower and if you don’t know who you and your neighbors are voting into your local representative offices, that buck stops with you.
Which is all to say that come next Tuesday, you need to get up off the couch, turn the TV off and head off to the polls and vote not just for the Big Race but for all the other offices, too. It is possible to make a difference. It is possible to make change. But you can’t change the world without action.
And you may ask yourself why a good Buddhist is getting so worked up about these issues. Why a good Buddhist would spend so much time kvetching about these issues and not talking about more, strictly speaking, spiritual ends. And the answer is that any self-respecting Buddhist knows that at the heart of his or her metaphysical being is an intimate interrelation with all existence. We are not islands unto ourselves. And as long as there is suffering in the world, I suffer. As a Buddhist, I dare say, I am obligated to action, to undo the mass of suffering in the world and work for positive, compassionate change.
So vote, damn it.