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Time to vote

11/05/02 12:00AM By Frank Bryan
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(Host) Commentator Frank Bryan has been thinking about the Vermont tradition of civic engagement.

(Bryan) From scripture to song it has often been said: There is a time for every purpose under heaven. Tuesday is the time to vote.

Voting is to democracy what oxygen is to life, what melody is to music, what passion is to love. You can't have one without the other. There can be no excuses.

It's time to forget about the incessant, often silly, even more often boring political adds with which we have been bombarded for weeks on end. It's time to set aside the deceptions and half-truths that fill the campaign rhetoric from all quarters. It's time to ignore the legitimate intuition that, as Jefferson and DeTocqueville reminded us, the vote alone is not enough to sustain a democratic republic. It's time to disregard the mathematics of one choice tossed into a sea of thousands.

Democracy, like life, has its ups and downs. But still we must breath if we are to have life and still we must vote if we are to have liberty.

We in Vermont, I believe, have a special obligation to vote that extends beyond our own self-interest. For Vermont is, whether we like it or not, the repository of sacred values that America holds dear. From the environment, to civil rights, from a healthy frugality, to a profound stoicism born of tough living on hard ground, from a love of community to a passion for individual liberty, our little state has been a wellspring of hope and indeed a comfort for our country. Many have called us America's national "homeland" - a shinning example of democracy as it ought to be. This has been especially true in our commitment to political activism of all kinds, from town meeting to our state-wide elections. Political scientists everywhere are in agreement. Vermont is a national leader in civic consciousness, social capital, the habit of public involvement and adherence to requirements of citizenship.

All over America a specter haunts the land. It is democracy's most deadly virus: Apathy. We see its effects even here in Vermont. At a time when the polling booth has been made more and more accessible to more and more citizens, people are voting less and less. Americans are asked only once every for years to spend only a half hour or so to choose the most powerful person on the planet. The person who can do more good or more evil than any other person in history. Barely 50% of the eligible voters of this nation take the time to do so.

ENOUGH. It is time for Vermonters to step forward - if not for ourselves, if not our beloved state, then for our country. Let's show them how its done. If you don't have the time to vote Tuesday, make the time.

This is Frank Bryan from Big Hollow road in Starksboro.

Frank Bryan is a writer and teaches political science at the University of Vermont.
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