Ballots and Bullets

November 08, 2012

Well, so, the election. Seventeen-year-old Danny is not into deep political analysis, but he has grasped some essentials. He was vexed that he cannot yet vote and urged me to cast a vote on his behalf. “For Mitt Romney. The other guy will cut the defense budget, and that will be bad for me.”

That left me with considerably mixed feelings. My own notion of an ideal US defense policy would involve repatriating the 56,000 troops in Germany, the 36,000 in Japan, the 28,000 in Korea, the 10,000 in Italy (Italy!), and so on, and stringing them out along our nation’s southern border with orders to shoot on sight. On a three-shift basis that would be about one soldier per 50 yards of border—quite sufficient to deter intruders.

Danny has different ideas. The kid is seventeen. He wants to kill people and break things, as we all did at that age—well, all of us non-elite worker bees. I sympathize.

And then there is that other fruit of my loins, Miss Nellie Derbyshire, who actually is old enough to vote for the first time. Though she is cagey about her intentions, I know an Obama voter when I see one. As futile as it may be in New York state—a foregone conclusion, election-wise—Nellie’s vote needs to be countered, if only for the sake of the nation’s popular-vote totals.

Off to the polling place, then. It is the local high school, and you know which door to go in by the big signs saying LUGAR DE VOTACION. Heaven forbid we should be directed to our civic duty by signs written in English! No doubt that would be racist.

I go in and register at the desk. To my pleased surprise, the senior-citizen volunteer at the desk who’s checking the voter rolls pronounces my name correctly. I comment on this. He tells me he was stationed in England with the US Air Force. I thank him for that, but add the quip about “Overpaid, oversexed, and over here.”

For that I get a spirited riposte: “What we said about the locals was, ‘Underpaid, undersexed, and under Eisenhower.’” God, I love these old warriors.

In the booth I marked up all the Republican/conservative spots on the ticket and fed it through the mark-scanner machine—sensationally new by the time-warped standards of voting technology. I was writing computer code for mark scanners in the early 1970s. Well, at least they’ve advanced somewhat from punched cards.

It was all for naught. As I write, shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning, it is clear that Barack Obama has won another term. It is bad for my son, who at best will end up in some office building in the Southwest directing drones from a PC and at worst will be peeling potatoes at Fort Baxter. But look, I did my best. Democracy? It’s wonderful, wonderful.


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