If you don't vote, don't complain

On Nov. 6, Americans of all colors, creeds, religions (or non-religion, if thatís your thing) and political leanings will take to the polls, at least a small percentage of them, that is. Sad, isnít it, that so many either refuse to vote or canít be bothered with the next four years of our countryís leadership? Yet nearly everyone, or so it seems, likes to snivel, whine, moan and yammer once the results are in, particularly if their guy (or gal) doesnít win.

My take? One has no right to complain if they refrain from voting, and for those whoíll willingly go on record saying ďit doesnít do any goodĒ or ďwhat difference does it make,Ē well ... letís just say that is certainly your right as an American Ė not to vote Ė yet your credibility is, for better or worse, going to be called into question.

How can I possibly know that, you ask? Because I used to be one of those people, as hard as I find that to believe in hindsight. In fact, Election Day 2012 will mark only the third time Iíve voted for a commander in chief, although I hate to admit it.

Actually, I take that back. My first foray into the political ring took place way back in 1980 (I think), when I begged my parents Ė and a small group of their friends Ė to vote for ZZ Top for president. And no, Iím not joking. When I was all of three (or maybe four) years old, MTV (or perhaps it was Saturday Night Live) held its very own presidential election, pitting Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard versus Republican nominee Ronald Reagan.

Needless to say, ZZ Top won in a landslide, if I remember correctly. To say I was dispirited when told it wasnít the real election is Ė as they say Ė an understatement.

Seriously, though, my first trip to the voting booth was in 2004, following the absolute debacle that was the 2000 presidential election (you know, when the other guy actually won). I suppose Iíd finally grasped the importance of casting my vote, and Ė at the time Ė was firmly convinced another four years of George W. Bush would simply lead to more casualties thanks to more money spent on what I considered (and still consider) immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I voted again in 2008 (yes, for Hope and Change) and I will vote again in less than two weeks.

And yes, I truly feel itís every Americanís personal duty to get out and vote, it simply took me awhile to grow up and realize it.

You know that saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? Thatís each and every presidential election I can remember Ė from Reagan to Bush, Clinton to Bush Jr. to Barack Obama Ė in a nutshell. The debates may be fancier, the cable news coverage more extensive (to the point of insanity, if you ask me), although the end result ... well, itís about the same. This most recent trio of debates, however, went a long way toward proving one simple, well known fact: a politician, any politician, will tell you exactly what you want to hear if it will get them into the Oval Office. Itís that simple.

Looking back, I can recall pestering my mother and stepfather on their choice for president in November of 1992, the Clinton versus George H.W. Bush election. I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school, and curious as to why my parents never seemed all that eager to discuss politics. It was explained to me, in the end, that an individualís vote is a personal choice, one not necessarily shared simply for the sake of sharing it. It seemed to me at the time a ridiculous answer to my queries, yet (once again) in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. It was their vote Ė my parents Ė their decision, based on their own ideals, hopes, worries, concerns and personal politics. Nowadays, of course, itís almost impossible to strike up a conversation without politics coming into play, or so it seems, yet Iím forced to wonder if thatís necessarily a good thing.

There are any number of issues at stake come Nov. 6, no surprise given the state of our union, whether itís abortion, the economy, terrorism, same sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, climate change, energy independence, the list goes on and on. Yet of all the potentially damaging topics up for debate, I think the biggest threat facing our country is ... well, us.

Letís face it, partisan politics are now the name of the game and itís a game that canít be won. At stake? The future of our country. At risk? Everything that past generations of Americans have worked, fought, lived and died for.

And yet none of that matters if you donít get out and vote. Itís as simple as that.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian.

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