Fresh Ideas: Casting a vote is patriotic, not political
October 24, 2012
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.” — Eleanor RooseveltThis election has certainly brought out the worst in us. Campaign signs stolen and defaced. Aggressive confrontations in traffic and at public forums. Voter registrations trashed by third party registrars. Tolerance, courtesy and respect have become rare commodities indeed.I find it fascinating (frustrating, puzzling, amusing) how we decide where we stand politically. Perhaps that’s because folks in my own family — bless their hearts — span the entire spectrum from left to right. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt of New York University explores this very topic in his book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Religion and Politics” (Pantheon Books, 2012).Haidt’s research suggests that most adults form moral and political judgments in the same way we form aesthetic ones — quickly. Some things look good, while others just look bad. We trust our gut, our heart. Our moral instincts evolved to help align us with like-minded individuals. More interesting though, is the research that says that we only use logic and reason to justify our decision after we have chosen a side.While Haidt’s research may explain our disagreements, it certainly doesn’t justify or support angry, destructive behavior. Haidt believes that the left and right are actually like Yin and Yang — two halves of our cultural body. We need both to survive and thrive. That division and the healthy debate it fosters protect us against extremism. We can’t move forward by only making right (or left) turns. Disparate groups must cooperate for society to prosper. In the words of Patrick Henry in 1799, “United we stand, divided we fall.”Balance will return, eventually, but only if we engage in that stuff of legend, civil discourse. Moreover, we can’t allow the few ill-mannered hotheads on either extreme to intimidate those of us in the middle. The greater our participation, the more representative and responsive our government will be.While the campaign divides us, Election Day binds us back together in one solemn, patriotic act. On this one day, each of us has the exact same power. It’s our chance — our duty — to take a stand and vote our conscience, our heart. While we may disagree, by golly, on Election Day we matter.Finally, after the election, I hope we can all agree on at least one thing — to rebuild the country into the one we have pledged allegiance to since we were children. You know, “One Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”Who’s with me? • Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly. Through Election Day, she will be one of the many election workers Nevada assisting voters. She reminds you to bring your sample ballot to the polls to ensure the process goes as efficiently as possible.