The reason nothing gets changed is because nobody wants to vote.

I vote every chance I get, even if I have to write in a candidate.  I’m a bit of a voting junkie.  People have been shot at protecting my right to vote.

“My vote doesn’t make a difference,” kids say.

“Nope.” I agree. “And it never will, because you’re too busy working a double shift to go vote…don’t you think they know that?  The system’s built to take advantage of you until you exercise your rights…”

“One vote doesn’t matter,” a kid says.

“One vote adds up to lots of people.  And you’ve got the power of the internet on your side…You don’t even have to be old enough to vote to make a difference,” I said.  “People fought and died for your right not to vote.  My friends did… So, I honor them by voting, every single time…even if I have to write in a candidate I like.”

An alum walked into my class last midterm election, right after that speech. “Hey,” I said.  “Did you vote yesterday?”

“Nah, I worked.” he said, “Time and a half!”

Case in point.

My town isn’t big enough to have any politicians visit our polling station.  I get disappointed, because I love talking politics with candidates and campaign workers on both sides.  We’re totally neglected on election day as candidates visit the big-vote places.  I am the ignored majority.   No stickers, pamphlets, flags, waving signs.

Our citizens are friendly, though, and everyone’s good for a smile or two and a political conversation about the state of the world today and which candidate might cause less collateral damage.

“Oh, you’re a teacher?” said a gentleman waiting for his wife.  She was in a political discussion on the other side of the aisle.  “I was a teacher for one semester,” he said. “But then I decided to go to Vietnam instead.”

“Decided?” I asked.  “Didn’t people usually teach to avoid Vietnam?”  We still have a handful of teachers in classrooms today who were exempt from the Vietnam draft due to college and teaching.  They’re retiring as we speak.

“Not me,” he said. “I lasted one semester in a high school classroom and decided I’d rather be shot at than teach.”  He laughed.  He told me how quit his teaching job screaming and volunteered for the army post haste.  As luck would have it, he was never shot at in Vietnam, and here he was, voting today.

I’d rather be shot at than teach… 

Such a powerful statement.

I don’t suppose it was funny at all, but I laughed just the same when he told the story.

I’d rather be shot at than teach.  I told him if you teach today, you can do both at the same time.  Multitasking.  I don’t suppose that was very funny either, but he laughed like I laughed at his Vietnam joke.  Comedy and tragedy are kissing cousins.  It’s only when you tap into life’s dark truth that you get to laugh for real.

I left the polling station, went home, and thought about what the veteran said.  “I’d rather be shot at than teach.”  Teaching’s got a rough reputation when people run screaming from the classroom into war zones.

I wonder if my vote will change that.  Or maybe it’ll get that veteran the recognition or benefits he needs.  Or healthcare for someone.  Or one of my students will be able to stop living in fear that a parent will be deported, or…maybe my vote will contribute to electing someone who brings peace and justice to the nation…

Or perhaps it’ll sit with the voices of tens of thousands of other disenfranchised voters waiting for some real positive change to trickle down to the people.

I’m not sure, but I do pull the lever every time, just in case.  Waiting for someone else to take the yoke has never been a good strategy for getting stuff done, so while I wait for America to count the votes and work on the things that matter, I pick up my own pen and get to work.

I’ve fired my shot across the bow of the American political system–with my single vote. Now, I must work like I’m the only agent of change that matters.

[Photo credit: American Soldiers Landing on Utah Beach, photographer unknown]