I’ve only performed a handful of weddings, only served communion a few times, however, although these activities resemble their commonplace cousins of public speaking and food service respectively, they palpably transcend all other common functions which might be named, save one: voting.
Whenever I vote I experience a certain jitter of otherworldly privilege. In a small way, not unlike eating crispy little wafers and sipping juice from tiny plastic cups, we are making something significant move—together! We become like snowflakes in an avalanche, unawares as to which might become the crashing threshold. Sure, I’m plowing through 57 judges with a simple thumbs up or down; badly coloring in some odd arrow-gap. Sure, sometimes I’m stabbing in the dark, but I’m stabbing!
The original English usage of vote was in proto-Parliamentary England. In its linguistic genealogy you would find the Latin votum, “to wish”, which is itself derived from vovere, “to vow”. And yes, in ancient Roman parlance, such vows were made before a deity. Maybe that’s why it resembles the wedding ceremony: “before God and these witnesses.”
Fill that bubble. Dislodge that chad. Rub that lamp. Make a wish.
We live in a representative democracy; some might call it a republic. We get to hire people to represent us. We hire them the way we hire people to watch our kids, to landscape our yards, to represent us in a court of law. These people make important choices on our behalf and, in equal measure, comport themselves in ways that make us … well … hopefully proud. The policies and the persons both matter. Don’t act like they don’t. These people are representing you!
We actually live in a straightforward democracy at a local level. Ok, some might call it federalism. But here’s the point: public services offered or withheld, the regulation of guns and drugs and gambling, if and where and how your tax money gets spent, what real people in your community—your neighbors—are entitled to be paid! These ballot measures are little wishes coming in two-year increments. You get to nudge the needle on the future of your city or state. You get to do the people in your place a solid. Do them a solid!
Votes are vows, they really are. You might not burn any incense or draw any blood, but you’ll feel it. Something supernatural alighting on the act. It will be palpably unlike other things to which it bears resemblance. You are shaping your society.
Or not. But don’t delude yourself. Your vote will be cast: either into a ballot box or aside. You may withhold your vote in protest or indifference, but the vote was cast. The vote is always cast.
And try not to be be cynical. There’s a lot of mud being slung out there! (Based on the ads these people all either demons or angels!) Did you know when politicians get desperate they ramp up the negativity levels? To get people to vote for them? Nope! To get people not to vote at all! It’s true! They do that! Are you gonna let them do that? To you? That’s bush-league!
I once missed a prayer while officiating a wedding. (No biggie, just the “prayer of invocation.”) I have a friend who dropped the whole communion tray. (Just clanging metal and red juice everywhere.) Only those who handle the important are prone to mishandling the important at times. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly! (But not badly on purpose; don’t misunderstand. Vote responsibly.)
So get out and vote. See how it feels—or remember how it feels! Feel the power! Vote early and often. (Just kidding.) “Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Vote” makes for a funny bumper-sticker, but not “funny ha-ha”. This privilege is a global, historical anomaly. This is grown up stuff. Make it happen. Bring a friend. The results aren’t always pretty, (and how!) but let’s make the means be. We’re all in this together. Believe that!