When we think of service to the United States of America, we are perhaps lead to a vision of our citizen soldiers,defending our freedom here and overseas, or perhaps members of the Peace Corps, trying to spread knowledge and form relationships all over the world, or maybe even those who work for our government, monitoring land, sea, and sky, trying to predict the things that will affect and influence us for years to come. Invariably, though, we forget about the group that does this country its greatest service, or, in some cases, disservice.
I speak of We, the People.
It is the cornerstone of all that our nation's early history meant -- the idea that the people of a nation were the ultimate arbiters of how it would be run. Despite the reluctance of many a Founder, believing as they did that perhaps the "common man" was not capable of the deep and necessary judgments that would be required, the United States was entrusted, for posterity, to the care of its citizens. The Constitution outlines only two actual qualifications for the high offices of the government outlined within: citizenship and age. It does not seek to apply a litmus test to those who would rule, only to outline basic qualities. It leaves everything else to the whim of the electorate.
This bold leap, starting a nation from the ground up with its citizens in firm control, may not have been unique, but was radical in that all previous attempts had, to one degree or another, been the subject of chicanery, revolution, and usurpation. The world had seen its fair share of monarchy and theocracy and empire up until that point; a democratic republic was not out of the question, merely an experiment with no guarantee of success.
So, the Founding Fathers handed us the keys to the car at the end of the Eighteenth Century, entrusting us with what was, at the time, a solemn responsibility. If the fledgling nation were to succeed, the people of that nation would need to supply it with the knowledge and skill needed to govern. It would be up to the people to determine what qualifications they thought their leadership needed, and put such in place to see to the protection, preservation, and growth of the United States. Those leaders of the American Revolution played a prominent role in the Federal government in its infancy, for the people knew them, knew their caliber, and regarded them highly for all they did to form thirteen disparate colonies into one country, then fight off an empire to gain independence. The founders, however, would not live forever, and eventually the electorate would need to call on new leaders to see America into the coming centuries.
Thus began the process which has not changed much from its original form. What has changed is the climate in the nation, and the means to electing the "right" representatives. Political parties existed from the time of the formation, but in the intervening centuries, their power has grown to the point of swallowing up the power of the electorate, and substituting party machinery for personal responsibility. The voters have become, by-and-large, puppets of a larger, more sinister set of organizations, determined to wrest control from each at every juncture possible, divvying up the government and the plums it offers, leaving the average American bereft of any true idea of the machinations that go on behind closed doors.
As in any case, not every American is so inclined to be cajoled into voting one way or another, but those who will not allow themselves to be so cheaply bought appear to be fewer than at any time before. They are highly coveted, though, for it is not the "party faithful" who win elections; no party base is strong enough to sweep one side or the other into complete victory. In that, the middle of the electorate holds the key, and it is they that the machines will try to sway, mainly through the tenacious use of fear-mongering and scare tactics and bald lies dressed up as God's honest truth.
In this middle-of-the-road electorate still extant in America lies our greatest hope, for as long they do not succumb easily to the snake oil of party politics, as long as they continue to cogitate critically on who represents the best choice to represent them, there is still hope that we might wrest back the control the Founding Fathers invested in us, and begin to populate the corridors of government with those among us with the knowledge, experience, desire, and above all, respect for all Americans, that is required to govern effectively.
As I write these words, dawn has not yet broken on another Election Day in America. As such, I must implore you to think carefully before you take whatever action you choose to today. For those who intend to vote, I say this: think. Think about those you are about to vote for. Ask yourself why you are choosing them. Are they the people you want to represent you? Why? Do you think they have best interests of all of us at heart, or just themselves? Are you voting for a slate, or a party, simply because that is what you have been told is best? Who is making this decision: you, or someone else? It is not up to I, or any other agency, to tell you how to vote -- only you can make that determination for yourself, if you are willing to exercise the power of your judgment, rather than accept the tacit assurances of political parties.
For those who do not intend to vote, who may have never even registered, I ask: what are you waiting for? Perhaps today is not the day to come to quick and rash decisions regarding who will represent you, but as the day progresses, realize that by not voting, you forfeit the greatest power you will ever hold in your hand: the power to influence the course of a nation. Those who will govern will be chosen today, and if you are not among those who will be choosing them, then you are merely along for the ride. They will do as they will, and give you not even a second thought, much happier to pander to the sycophants that lap at their feet.
As the first fingers of light get set to creep over the horizon and illuminate this land of ours, let us reflect on what this day really means. It is the day when we can exercise great power, when we form the government that will carry us forward -- or possibly backward -- for the next two years. Each ballot represents our individual wisdom or folly; together, they represent our hopes or our nightmares. Whatever the case, remember that this vote you cast (or do not) is yours, to do with as you see fit. Choose well. Choose wisely. Do what you must do for your country.