"I cannot free another, and no one can free me. Freedom is acquired with the responsibility that sustains it." ~ Eric Schaub
Fear and Voting in Miami
Exclusive to STR
September 8, 2006
It's 6 a.m. and my alarm clock begins to buzz. Today, I have made a decision to immerse myself in the electoral experience so as to take a closer look at how and why the other half votes. I jump out of the shower, pop the blue pill (not 'that' blue pill since I like most folks will be the one getting screwed today) along with a heavy dose of caffeine, and head out the door into the light of dawn. My journey into the electoral matrix has begun.
My first stop is at a precinct located at a government school where I will be volunteering (i.e., harassing voters) for a good friend of mine who has decided to run for state representative. Upon arrival, I am given a T-shirt identifying myself as a campaign worker and some palm cards. This helps keep all the folks working for other campaigns from attacking me in an attempt to give me a palm card from their particular candidate. Standing there ready to charge the first voter I see, I am surrounded by dozens of folks waiting to do the same. The minutes pass and no voters appear. Suddenly, the skies open up and a downpour rains heavily upon our heads as thunder booms and lightning crashes down to earth, a sure sign that the gods are angry and have decided to urinate on the voters and campaign workers.
Eventually, the rain subsides and an elderly man emerges from his car. He sure looks like a voter. I approach him, as do dozens of other campaign workers who have been lurking in the parking lot. The elderly man is paralyzed like a deer in headlights. He's surrounded, unable to make his way towards the polls due to the dozens of outstretched hands in front of his face. He looks annoyed, but is courteous enough to take all the cards handed to him, thus allowing him safe passage through the parking lot. Later, an elderly woman approaches; she also is mobbed by a sea of outstretched hands bearing palm cards. She asks one woman why she should vote for her candidate. The worker replies, 'Because he's young and handsome. Just look at the picture.' The voter stops, looks at the picture, and heads for the polling booths convinced of the candidate's youthful good looks. After three hours, I decide I have assaulted enough voters and decide to experience voting from another perspective.
I arrive at my precinct and park my car, which has been surrounded by campaign workers from numerous campaigns. It's drizzling, but this does not deter the determined workers who insist on giving me their candidate's literature. I take the cards in order to avoid any serious injury and ask an elderly man why I should vote for his candidate. 'Because he's the best,' he firmly replies. Best criminal? I thought to myself. The precinct I am designated to vote in is also located in a government school. Walking towards the polling place, I see a sign located at the entrance to the school that reads, 'This is A Drug Free School.' Thoughts race through my mind, 'Have Ritalin and Prozac been reclassified as vitamins?' 'Does a teacher on Xanax or Cialis count?' 'Well, Duh! This is only an elementary school. All the 'good stuff' is in the high schools.' I was so immersed in thought that I didn't notice that I had reached the registration table. I hand my voter registration card to a poll worker who asks me for a picture ID. She looks at them and asks me if I have a different address on my driver's license (remember: she's looking at it.). I simply reply, 'Yes,' and offer no further explanation. She summons her supervisor and inquires about my dual addresses. The supervisor carefully examines my documents and, after a few tense moments, finally rules in my favor. I am free to vote! I am escorted to the booth where a computer screen is awakened.
First on the ballot are Senate candidates. My choices are between a woman who makes Tom Cruise look sane and a retired army officer who apparently didn't boss enough people around during his military career and wants to make up for it now. I abstain. Next, it's the governor's race between two career politicians. One is our current state chief financial officer, who invested in the same insurance companies he regulated (I bet his finances are better than mine). The other is our current attorney general, whose best asset is his perpetual tan. Again, I abstain. At the bottom of the page is a hotly contested state senate seat where over $4 million (might as well have been Turkish Liras) were spent trying to convince voters that snakes contributed to one candidate's campaign (and then boarded planes) and that the other had the ability to morph into both Hillary Clinton and infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. Once again, I abstain and hit the button prompting the next page, but the computer seems puzzled at the fact that I have voted for no one. I swear I heard What are you doing, Emiliano? coming from the machine. Stunned, I respond, 'Hal is that you?'
As I continue on my mission, I do finally vote for some judge candidates who I am personally acquainted with (better the devil who knows you, than the devil who doesn't know you from a hole in the wall). Finally, I arrive at the last item. My Holy Grail. My one reason for expending valuable time and fossil fuels in order to cast my ballot. I vote NO! for a salary increase for county commissioners. At last, I am finished and press a button that sends my vote into the realm of cyberspace perhaps never to be seen or heard from again.
Later in the evening, I make the rounds at Miami 's most popular Cuban coffee window in order to take in the political chatter. Supporters of different candidates make arguments as to why theirs is better. Apparently the effect of the blue pill I took earlier in the day seems to be wearing off, since none of their banter is making any sense. I finally head home convinced once again that voting for the most part is an exercise in futility, reinforced by the fact that elections come and go, yet the government continues to grow at an alarming pace. Taxes continue to rise and regulations continue to interminably sprout out of bureaucracies while more and more freedoms are curtailed every day. Where did I put my red pill?