Friday, September 28, 2012

Democracy in action

My fellow Americans (and everyone else), I come before you today to discuss that most American of all Greek-invented activities: voting. It is an act that is simple on its face--voicing support for someone to represent you in creating legislation and governance--but complex in execution and effect. Sometimes there's no one out there who represents your ideals. Sometimes the person who DOES represent your ideals has no shot of winning. And sometimes the person you vote for and wins ends up not really doing what you expected.

All part of the process. It's one I have been enjoying and growing into for nearly two decades now. Living abroad has given me a different perspective on democracy in a lot of ways, of course; in the Middle East, democracy doesn't really exist, so it was always interesting to explain to people that, in my opinion, it was better for people in a given country to be able to peacefully kick out whoever was running the country than to just allow someone to be in charge because of their surname. The results are messy and almost always imperfect, but on the whole, pretty nifty.

This year will be the first time I vote in a general election while living overseas. I know, I know… there was a congressional election in 2010, and I am a terrible American who did not participate. This was not out of protest or apathy, but simple laziness. As a citizen relatively new to overseas life, it seemed impossibly difficult to, you know, vote from 5,000 miles away.

The reality, though, is that it is impossibly easy to vote from 5,000 miles away. Or 7,000 miles away, as the case is now in 2012. You tell your most recent voting jurisdiction where you are--via a form you can e-mail--and that you would like a ballot. They e-mail you the ballot. You fill out the ballot and mail it back. The end. Democracy rules!

What democracy looks like.

If anything, it's actually easier than voting in the U.S., which requires me to do insane stuff like leave the house, walk a few blocks and wait in line for 10 minutes. And if you thought living 15 hours (direct flight!) from the continental U.S. meant I was far removed from the craziness of campaign season, think again. Mitt Romney had a fundraiser here in Hong Kong on Thursday night.

Wrong flag. But hey, there weren't any pictures taken at the fundraiser, so what do you want from me?

And there's one other interesting issue at play here. About 5 million Americans live outside the United States. If, like me, they are casting their ballots now, the homestretch of the campaign--including all three presidential debates--simply does not matter. I guess that's a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, if everyone in the U.S. voted early, it might mean a little less money spent on incredibly annoying partisan advertising. On the other hand, it might also just mean that most people have their minds made up already, no matter how hard any candidate campaigns. So much for intellectual discourse and persuasion.

Whatever. What it means for me is a lot more obvious: I get to cast my vote, then sit back and watch (or ignore) the fireworks.  And because I live 7,000 miles away, those fireworks will occur around breakfast time on Nov. 7. Breakfast fireworks and easy voting: now that's a platform anyone could get behind.

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