Monday, October 27, 2008

What Is Democracy? Standing In Line For Over An Hour...

Today I exercised my constitutional right to vote, in order vote early (although early voting was not discussed in our Constitution by our Founding Fathers). I stood in line for an hour. I saw tireless, polite, and a bit frazzled poll workers. I saw the young, the elderly, black and white folks, blue and white collar workers, police officers, moms with squirming kids, and everyone in between--all waiting to vote.

Just taking it all in made me think: this is what democracy looks like. It may be slow. It may be imperfect. But, just like the line that eventually snaked forward, it works. It reminded me of an essay from E.B. White I read a long time ago in college. It was written in 1944, and it was in response to a letter to the local "War Board" asking, "What is the meaning of democracy?"

We received a letter from the Writers' War Board the other day asking for a statement on "The Meaning of Democracy." It is presumably our duty to comply with such a request, and it is certainly our pleasure. Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don't in don't shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles, the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere.
Democracy is the letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn't been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It's the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from a War Board, in the middle of the morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is.

And it is also standing in line for over an hour to vote in an historic election. And no matter who wins, it's nice to know that the public apparently is as interested in this election as they are in who wins "American Idol" or "Dancing With The Stars"...

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Anonymous said...

Our Democracy: It's about hope for a better tomorrow. It's about believing that we can stand together and fix what's broken.It's about being strong when you are down and about being compassionate when you are ahead.It's about living up to the promise of the Constitution that all men are indeed created equal. It's about America the beautiful, the bountiful and the home of the brave. It's about all that is good within us and every four years we get to decide the path which will lead our nation, impact our lives and show the world how freedom and democracy work in the USA. Ya gotta love it! by the DialUpLady

Brian said...

Your comment is eloquent and right on the mark. Thanks for posting.