BRATTLEBORO — I've always been very grateful for the Voices section of The Commons. How many citizens get a longer format to express an opinion or tell a personal story in their local newspaper? My sense is, not many.
I've always likened the process to a three-legged stool represented by the writer, the editor, and the reader. I only have control over what I write and must let it go once it reaches the editor's desk, and can only hope that my writing is clear enough to truly convey my intention.
As an admittedly less-than-accomplished citizen writer, I apparently failed in my goal with the “gut-punches” piece.
Originally, I ended the piece with “Vote!” but cut it before submission, thinking “Who am I to tell people what to do?”
I also thought that I didn't need to spell out that I did decide to vote because my resolve to not give up was directly stated after my confession that I considered not voting. Based on Patricia Sheehan's response, I guess the implication didn't suffice.
Regarding her characterizations (“blithely throw away their right to vote in order to feed their ego,” “disconnected,” “arrogance,” “entitled to a self-indulgent act”), I found her words unfair and harsh. How does she magically know what process people go through in their decision to vote or not in any given election?
Personally, I can assure Ms. Sheehan that I didn't go through this process blithely. I spent a month agonizing about my decision and did a good deal of research before concluding that I would vote.
I have discussed this very topic with dozens of people over the decades, and my takeaway is there are two main reasons that people who normally vote decide to sit one out or drop out of the process altogether.
1. The bone-weary, stomach-wrenching act of voting yet again for the “lesser of two evils,” a Mr. Lesser, if you will. He is always so far removed from their own values that it's hard to vote for him again and again.
2. They experience a what-difference-does-it-make despair. When I was younger, I was very judgmental of people who didn't always vote. Now, in my 60s, I have a more compassionate view of those who are just too disgusted or conflicted to vote in a particular election. I may not agree with their decision, but I get it, and it's their right.
When I submit a piece to The Commons, it is always with a particular intention in mind. For this piece, I wanted to share my voting process with people. Turning to history gave me perspective and hope that our country will get through these dark days and that realization allowed me to once again vote for Mr. Lesser.
My desire was that perhaps, just perhaps, one or two people who were despairing over this election might choose to vote and be comforted and empowered by their decision to do so.