I'm a knitter, and I vote!
I'm a little bit disappointed that Oregon votes by mail. I've always loved going to the polling place on election day, filling out the ballot and dropping it in the little box, and then heading home to watch the results come in on TV. Although I guess my last year in California I voted electronically before election day, and that wasn't quite the same, either, but it did get me out of standing in line for an hour at the polls.
One good thing about getting your ballot in the mail ahead of time is that you can study it and make sure you vote the way you intend to on each item. We've got a gazillion ballot measures this year, and some of them are pretty questionable, so it's especially important to be thoughtful while filling out the ballot. We've got library and school funding measures, both of which are very important to me (although I find it very frustrating that schools and libraries have to beg the voters for funding every few years instead of being securely funded by the federal government like they should be). And a governor's race, which is also critical as the two candidates will run the state very differently.
Now, if you've read this blog for awhile, you'll know that I'm a very proud Democrat and unabashed liberal. But regardless of your political persuasion, I encourage you to get out and vote on election day. It's important, even if it doesn't seem like one vote makes any difference. It does! Technically, a single vote doesn't make a difference. But your vote combined with thousands of others does. It's kind of like if you give $1 to your favorite charity. You may think, why bother? $1 isn't going to make any difference. But if you and 10,000 of your closest friends all donate $1, suddenly you have $10,000, which would make a huge difference. It's the same thing with voting. The government is supposed to be by the people and for the people. But if only a small percentage of people vote, then that's not really the case, is it? So get out there and vote!
I also think that respectful discussion of the issues is extremely important. In talking about the things we believe in and keeping an open mind to others' opinions, it helps to clarify what we really stand for. Part of the problem with our society these days is that people don't really think. They listen to talk radio or see television ads or "news" stories and take them at face value. It's important to ask what the motivation is behind each story or ad, particularly the attack ads that are so despicable (and often dishonest) but unfortunately very effective at swaying the casual voter. Nobody has the right to complain about the direction our country is taking if they aren't willing to take the time to educate themselves about the issues and the candidates. Think long and hard about the kind of world you want for your children, and find the candidates and ballot measures that you think will bring about that world.
I've found my priorities changing greatly after starting my family. It's no longer all about me - I've got my kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, etc. to look out for. I want them to have a safe, happy society to grow up and raise their own families in. There are three things that I feel support that goal - a peaceful world, a clean environment, and a society that respects and takes care of all of its members. The Democratic party is certainly not perfect, and there are definitely things about it that I don't support. However, on these three items, I really feel that the Democratic candidates are the ones who have the right approach to these issues. The war in Iraq has made us more vulnerable to terrorists, and Osama bin Laden is still out there, plotting against us. I want us to get ourselves out of Iraq and get back to the business of protecting our own country and people. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator, but there are hundreds of those all over the world. It's not the US's job to get rid of them all and I don't think the Iraqi people are much better off now that the country is being overrun by renegades and suicide bombers. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and wasn't developing weapons of mass destruction.
On the environment, I have trouble understanding why anyone doesn't support measures to keep it clean for our children. Is money really more important than the health of future generations? We are doing as much as we can as a family to reduce our energy use and reuse and recycle everything we can. However, it's hard when just about everything you buy is packaged in plastic and is disposable. I would love to see our government more concerned about protecting air and water quality than protecting corporate profits. Clean energy is available (in fact, we've signed up for a program through our power company where we pay a little extra to purchase renewable energy - wind, solar and hydroelectric power), so why aren't we focusing on using it instead of continuing to drill for oil in places that will only supply us for a very short amount of time? We've come a long way towards a cleaner environment in the past 20 years, and I'd like to see us keep going.
Finally, a society that takes care of all of its members. I get so mad when people complain about all the taxes they have to pay. Taxes are the price we pay for living in a society. Don't you want good schools, good health care, well-maintained roads, a strong police force? You can't have it both ways - if we are going to have these things, we need to pay for them. And we should all pay our share - no matter how much money we have. Why is it so unreasonable for those who have more than they need to help out those who don't have enough? Our society has become so concerned with having stuff - buying a boat, or a vacation home, or another car, or some lavish vacation. Is it really so terrible to ask a millionaire with two houses and four luxury cars to pay a little more in taxes so that a homeless person has a bed to sleep in, or a poor child has medical care? I'd love to see the current trend of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer reversed. And to be completely honest, the tax cuts that the current administration has been doling out have definitely helped us. But I'd much rather have that money going towards education or health care than into a tax cut for us. We have too much stuff in our house already - that extra money will just go towards more stuff that we don't need. I'd rather it did some good. I don't want to live in a society where it's every person for themself - where he or she with the most toys wins.
There's my 2 cents on what I think is important. I'd love to hear from all of you, too, and in fact, I'm going to have a little contest. Go to the new blog I'm A Knitter And I Vote for more details, and e-mail me if you'd like to join up. Let's knit the vote, people!