I was visiting with a beloved cousin this past Wednesday night and we were talking about our parents. Her dad was one of my mom’s three elder brothers and it was his birthday, though he passed away in 1995. He would tell my mother when they were growing up that the reason there was a legal holiday around his natal anniversary was due to his birth. He was quite the teaser and Mom’s stories of their collective youth often made my siblings and me laugh. That uncle, like another of my mother’s brothers, fought in World War II. I dare say they’d not be laughing at our present state of world affairs.
Mom always bought and wore the red paper poppy lapel decorations that the Veterans of Foreign Wars sold annually as the calendar neared Veterans Day. As a child in the '60s, it never occurred to me until recently that some of the men selling them had fought in World War I, as well as some who, of course, had served in WWII and Korea. It was not uncommon to see men with only one leg or arm when I was young, results of battles that they’d seen.
I always assumed with little thought that peace in our country and larger world, along with collegiality among our politicians, was the birthright of those of us born during the post-WWII U.S. baby boom. It has gradually dawned on me the last 40 years, and increasingly so now, that despite the sacrifices of those who came before me, peace is something that has to be worked on unceasingly to be maintained.
But now there seems to be a shadow over America.
Recently, I have awakened almost every morning with existential dread of what is looming and that we seem largely helpless to prevent it. This time two years ago, I well recall thinking that if humanity could only survive COVID, we’d try to work the rest of our assorted differences out. But once again, the ghastly spectre of nuclear annihilation has reared its ugly head, stunning my naive self who always assumed that we’d put that permanently to bed in the late ‘80s and would never be so foolish enough to again brandish it as a sign of might.
Then there is climate change. It is as undeniable as the wrinkles on my face and the arthritis in my joints. We ignore it at our planet’s peril. And nary a week seems to pass without at least one mass shooting. Racism and anti-semitism are increasingly exhibited.
As if these non-COVID terrors weren’t enough, we are now as a nation faced with our country on the rocks of a political crisis decades in the making. Is it any wonder, with this constellation of horrors, that our nation’s children and many adults, too, are in the throes of mental health struggles?
And yet, in just three days, the opportunity will arrive in the mailboxes of the citizens of our state to fulfill our civic duty and vote in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. This election cycle culminates a scant 25 days from now. It is vital like never before that we answer that call to action, and do so responsibly. There are many who would have us believe that the paramount issue of this election cycle is the economy, regarding the ongoing price of goods, fuel and housing. I agree that those are absolutely vital issues. But it is of paramount importance that we be able to look beyond those and see how democracy in our country is on the precipice and, like a boulder on the edge of a cliff, could so easily be pushed over.
I was taught that voting was my civic obligation and it has been a rare election cycle in my life that I have not answered that call. I have never missed voting in a presidential election and consider the midterms of equal importance. Even though the next presidential election is not for another two years, the outcome of the election next month may very well dictate if, going forward, our votes will ever matter again. On the ballot in many places, including Colorado, are candidates who have refused to acknowledge that President Joe BIden was legally elected. And equally as concerning is that many are running for positions that have to do with the governance of our elections. Several of them have indicated that they believe it is within the power of those positions to decide who wins and who loses based not on the will of the voters but on party lines and individual actors. Those two concepts are more terrifying to me than any Halloween chills.
But, I am often reminded of the quote I read in my youth, the genesis of which is now uncertain:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
When your ballot shows up in your mailbox, please fill it out and return it as soon as you can. Our elections only work if we participate in our democracy. Not doing so is at our peril and this may well be our last chance. Don’t squander it.
— Staff notes originally run in our daily email newsletter, Indy Now, along with news updates, photos of the day, a weekly poll and more. Sign up below.