The Choice

In just a few short months you'll wake up on a crisp Tuesday after the first Monday in November and do your part to dramatically affect the course of history. That's the day you discover your mortgage check sitting on the kitchen counter, behind the toaster, and it's already a week late (and possibly a little dark and crispy). So you'll frantically rush to the post office to send the bill by overnight mail, which will be delivered within the next calendar week, unless you express the slightest irritation at having waited in line for an hour. (Then your envelope would go in to the "special box.")

After all that, you will probably remember something about the democratic process and your civic duty to make your voice heard in the presidential election. In a moment of poignancy, you'll recall the impassioned belief of our forefathers that even a single vote can make a difference. And then you'll laugh and laugh, because of course it doesn't make a difference, silly!

But what the heck, you're already up and dressed anyway. Plus, you don't want to make up some story to your co-workers about how crowded the polls may or may not have been, depending on whether you did or did not vote, and then, on that basis, have them accuse you of making up the whole story just to take off work. (Are you following this?)

So you'll go to a nearby school or fire station, walking by the colorful placards comparing the candidates to Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa, and then you'll vote for the persons best qualified to do the job. Unfortunately, those people aren't listed, because they were constitutionally prevented from running since they're not rich. (The reason being, the founding fathers were all pretty rich themselves, not including Benjamin Franklin who, while not wealthy, was the only signer who had prescription glasses and could actually read what he was signing. One can't help but wonder, then, why he didn't catch all those typos in the Constitution: you know, the "f"s that should have been "s"es, things like that.

(Historical aside: Franklin's main qualification as an official forefather was the fact that he was a forefather many times over, a feat accomplished by dating numerous foremothers.)

But what really matters in all this is that voting is so darn fun. It's the only time you get to use that cool hole punch thingy. I usually don't like any of the candidates, so I just punch holes by all their names. It may take a little longer, and it most certainly nullifies your ballot, but for two minutes of tactile fun you just can't beat it.

DURING THE ACTUAL voting process - for reasons unknown and possibly sinister - when you stand in the booth only your legs will show. We think this is done because:

*Poll officers want to see your legs. It's just something they like to do and we probably shouldn't talk about it anymore.

*If your legs are visible people will know when you start dancing. Then they can tell you to stop.

*The U.S. Census Bureau figures it can tabulate the number of people who vote by counting their legs, and then dividing by two.

AS A PATRIOTIC BONUS, when you leave the polling area a kindly senior citizen will pin a "I Just Gave Blood" button on your shirt, which means one of two things: He is in the wrong place, and if you think he's going to take his medication then you're just barking up the wrong tree, mister!

Or you were in the wrong place. This confusion can easily be resolved by asking yourself if you just woke up on the floor from a dead faint (that always happens when I try to give blood) or by removing your shirt to check for a little Red Cross Band-Aid. At this point, if you are wrestled to the ground by police then you probably just voted.

But if you take your vote seriously, and of course you do, then you eventually will have to suffer the consequences of your actions. For the next four years you will regret having voted for one of the following:

*President Al Gore. Tall, dark, and boring. The Monotone-In-Chief; the man who invented the environment; the candidate who caused an entire nation to cry out, "How can somebody so darn handsome make me want to take a nap when he talks?!" Gore campaigned on a promise of continuing the Clinton legacy, except for that one thing.

*President George W. Bush. The man elected on a simple campaign slogan: "Don't let the fact that I've done NOTHING keep you from electing me to the highest office in the land. (Was that a good read? Did I do okay? Should I have come down a little softer on that 'nothing' part?)" Actually, for a time, Bush's well-funded campaign was in a political quandary around that Elian Gonzalez business. On the one hand, Bush's individual rights credentials were well-served when he criticized Janet Reno's daring pre-dawn raid. (Okay, it wasn't her raid since, at the time, she was at home in her comfy cotton robe and fluffy slippers. Hey, it was late. Or early.) On the other hand, during the seizure of Elian, a gun was used, which, according to Bush, "is good, right? I mean, we like guns, don't we...? Or are we against that? Where-the-heck's that stack of note cards with my talking points? ...anybody?" And it's that kind of fast thinking and oratorical acumen that assured Bush the presidency. But only if the debates were cancelled.

And, of course,

*Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party. ...Who?

Yes, the new president will have much to contribute to the new century. And it will be all your fault.

ED SPIVEY JR. is art director of Sojourners.

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