I'm 32 years old, a husband and a father. The last election I voted in was for prom king and queen. No, I'm not a slow learner--that was fourteen years ago.
In a week or so, I'm going to change that.
I'll admit it; I'm lazy. I can be irresponsible. I've had less lazy, more responsible friends point that out to me. I've heard them argue that I should vote, that it's my right and my duty, that there's no excuse not to. And, to cover up my laziness, I always struck back with the one point that they couldn't refute: simple practicality. On a national or even state level, my vote is virtually meaningless. A grain of sand on the beach. At least with the prom, my choices counted for 2% of the total votes cast. (Congrats again, Garth and Olivia!) But for President? The closest race in recent history was still decided by over 500 votes. Even if I happened to be living in the right county of the right state, my influence would be less than a fifth of a percent. I may as well stay home and do something more useful, like catching up on whatever's on the DVR.
So what's different this year?
Is it really the most important election of our lifetime? Meh. They're all important. Well, maybe not '88, but pretty much all the others.
Have I grown less lazy? Sadly, no.
Have I moved to a critical electoral region with 499 like-minded friends? No again, although I do happen to live in a so-called "battleground" state.
Did I illegally register my two-year-old son so I could vote for him? No--but getting warmer.
See, I've looked at a lot of things differently since he came along. I've started viewing my own actions through his eyes. Like most dads, mine has gotten considerably cooler now that I'm no longer a teenager, and I'd like my son to think the same about me someday. As he enters the Terrible Twos and his vocabulary grows from "Waaahhh!" to "Oy doy doy" to "Don't eat your shoes," I've started preparing for the upcoming "Why?" stage. And since I always hated "Because I'm your father and I said so" as an answer, I've tried to make sure that I do, indeed, have a reason for the things I do.
That's how I've discovered that, when you say it out loud, "Because I'm lazy" sounds pretty stupid. I sure as hell (oops, heck--gotta watch what I say, now) wouldn't let him get away with it. How can I?
So I'm not. I've registered to vote. And since I travel occasionally for work, and I have a tendency to put things off until it's too late to do anything about them, I've sent in my request for an absentee ballot. No time for last-minute excuses. No chance of finding something so engrossing on the DVR that I can't tear myself away from it for thirteen hours on November 4.
It still doesn't mean my vote counts for anything. I'm still a grain of sand on the beach.
But at least now I'll have done something where, when he asks "Why?", I will say, "Because it's the right thing to do."
Put that way, it seems pretty practical after all.