Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day: Your Vote Is Your Voice

In the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, the American flag gained a new level of significance in the New York City area.  In the days after the Twin Towers attack, people hoisted flags as a defiant gesture that said, "We're still here.  We're still free. You can batter us, but you can't break us.  We are not victims.  We will go on.  We will prevail."

In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, New Yorkers have again raised their Stars and Stripes to communicate the same message.  Flags are flying:

  •  On the desolate streets of Breezy Point in Queens, where a hundred homes burned to the ground.  
  • From the overpasses of the Long Island Expressway, as fuel trucks once again roll underneath them.  
  • On still-dark storefront windows, just above the hand-lettered CLOSED signs.
  •  From the rafters of houses with toppled trees in their yard. 
  •  On anything that still remains vertical along the roadsides and ruined wastelands of New Jersey's coastline. 
It occurs to me, as I see these symbols of hope and solidarity, that America has its own unique heritage of gutsy survival that goes back to the very first settlers on our shores.  When our leaders say "We will rebuild," they echo the declarations of countless other pioneers, colonists, city-dwellers and farmers who have said the same in the wake of enemy attacks, floods, droughts, earthquakes and fires.  All Americans have tenacity in their genes.  Our very flag tells the story of  progress amidst peril: fifty sky-borne stars, bright independent states, emerge from thirteen stripes that symbolize the original colonies and the blood that was shed to preserve them.

How can any American fail to go to the polls today in the shadow of such a heritage?

No matter how much we have lost, no matter how urgent our other daily affairs may seem, today is Election Day.  It's time to add our voices, one by one, to the chorus of all those who affirm that America still has a mission, and that part of that mission is to be a beacon of freedom.  In America, our votes count and our voices matter.  Equality means we all get to elect whom we prefer to be in leadership.  No matter what our background, education, race or religion.  No matter how big or small our bank account is.

Voting says, "My country matters to me.  I pay my civic duty in the voting booth today, because so many have paid far more dearly to preserve my right to do so."  We have different views, but we have one loyalty: to ensure that this nation, this idea, this America, keeps moving into the future and facing its challenges with the same bold defiance that is mirrored in the flags now flying from our shattered Northeastern shores.

Your vote is your most basic way to add your voice to the American story.  Don't let the story continue without you.  Find the time to get to the polling place today, my countrymen and women. Stand in line with your neighbors at the polling place today and experience the solidarity that we all share as citizens of a great country.  Then enter the booth alone and pledge that you will help see our nation through, whether or not our next round of elected officials are the ones you have voted for.

Our country is bigger than any quarrel that divides us.  No matter what you think of our current politicians and problems, when you vote today you raise your personal flag over the shifting landscape of controversy to say, "This is worth preserving.  We will rebuild.  We will prevail."   

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