I voted Friday, but when I picked up my flag-festooned “I Voted” sticker, I didn’t feel that jolt of pride that usually comes with knowing that I was an active participant in my country’s democratic process.
Upon reflection, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that patriotic surge. All too often in the past few elections, voting has felt more like going to watch a co-worker’s kid’s school play than a production of Hamilton, obligatory suffering that must be endured rather than relished.
Being a voter in Virginia is exhausting; election season never ends here. Every year we endure primaries or conventions or mass meetings. Every year our mailboxes fill up with campaign mail. Every year our television shows are interrupted by 30-second missives extolling or eviscerating candidates’ character and missions. Every year we try to keep the edge out of our voices as we politely decline the poll workers’ sample ballots. Every year we know that as soon as we hear the results of this year’s election, the next cycle begins all over again.
The last several years have exacerbated the situation. Lester Holt summed up the situation when he said, “Once upon a time there was a thing called a Slow News Day. It just feels like we’re drinking out of a fire hose every night.” We are drowning, and like a drowning man treading water, eventually, our exhaustion wins out and we slip under the surface if just to block out the sound for a few moments before succumbing to the watery depth.
Looking at the candidates on the ballot lately, one can’t help feeling just “meh.” All this effort is so that we can decide between the lesser of two, I can’t say evil because they’re not evil, they’re just uninspiring. More often than not the number one reason given by a campaign for voting for their guy is just to stop the other. We are instructed that we are voting against something more often than we are voting for it.
Frederick Nietzsche reportedly said, “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”
The electorate is tired, and it shows in the battles that we fight again and again. We don’t move forward, we just start the cycle over. Cycles loop back on themselves in a never-ending series of switchbacks, and they make progress impossible.
“That government is best which governs least,” according to Henry David Thoreau. I would update that to say, “That government is best which governs at all and then bloody well shuts up.”
We can’t all run off to Walden Pond like our boy Hank here when we need a little peace and quiet, and we could all use a little peace and quiet. Not everything has to be a fight. Not everything is a conspiracy. Not everything needs a Breaking News crawl across the day-to-day of our lives.
There are less than two weeks left in this election cycle. What is happening is important, so let’s treat it that way. Voters should pay attention and make an informed decision, and then they should be allowed to rest. They should be let their livers grow back after filtering out all this poison before the vultures come to peck at it again. Only then will we all be ready to pick up our boulder and roll it up the mountain for the 2022 election season.