Why I vote

“You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting’,” Barry McGuire sang to my generation in 1965.
The song “Eve of Destruction” came out during a time when male high school grads who did not get themselves into college or a National Guard unit were bound for Vietnam. At 18 they were “old enough to kill” but could not vote until they turned 21.
It seemed such a big deal in those days not to be able to vote at 18, but when the right was finally granted in 1970, not so much. Today, fewer than 50 percent of the 18-21 year olds vote. More than three-quarters, according to surveys, say they drink.
But recollections of the time when friends were dying in Vietnam while none of us could vote are not what sends me to the polls these days.
Neither is a somewhat cynical thought that occurred to me as I drove to my polling place, Pittston City Hall, Tuesday afternoon. I was keenly aware that NOT voting for certain candidates has become as important to me as voting for others. I took pleasure in withholding my vote. Too much pleasure, I thought. But again, not my major reason for showing up.
While I have been voting for more than 40 years, occasionally shirking the duty but not often, I now make it my business to get to the polls primarily because of something I watched on TV about ten years ago: those purple fingers in Iraq.
With an opportunity to participate in the first free elections in most of their lifetimes, the people of Iraq turned out in massive numbers. And many risked bodily harm or death to do so.
If you recall, the method used to combat voter fraud was to have those who voted dip their index finger in purple ink. I will never forget the look of pride on the faces of Iraqis waving their purple fingers at the cameras as they exited the polls. No one had to tell them what a big deal it is to vote.
We know what has happened in Iraq since. But that does not diminish the joy with which those Iraqis emerged from the polls in 2005, or the courage it took to wave a purple finger that said “I voted.”
I was under the weather Tuesday, battling the early stages of what is shaping up to be one heck of a summer head cold, and there weren’t a lot of intriguing races in this primary anyway, but just one thought of those purple fingers in Iraq was enough to get me to brush my teeth, give my nose a good blow, and go to perform my civic duty.

Ed Ackerman