Embracing Freedom

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- Brad Wortz

Well, the voting season is officially upon us. It seems everywhere I go people are talking politics. For some this is an exciting time, for some anxious, and for some it is flat out frustrating. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, every American feels a compulsion to vote. Teachers, preachers, family, friends, and, of course, the media teach us that this is part of what it means to be American. 

I believe that it is a great thing to live in a country where we as citizens have the freedom to vote. Unfortunately, I also feel that the right to vote has granted citizens the luxury of feeling politically involved without actually having to take any other personal initiatives.

A couple of days ago I sat in a local sandwich shop to enjoy my lunch break. I found a corner table all to myself, and I began to eat my lunch in solitude. Unfortunately, four men sitting to my left, in the midst of a political discussion, interrupted my solitude. They were not being rude or offensive in any way; I just couldn’t help over hearing them. They were middle aged, well dressed, and appeared to be business professionals. One of the men clearly considered himself the most informed on the issues and therefore dominated the discussion. It was also clear that he had an agenda and felt compelled to share his agenda with his friends.  

It is important to discuss our beliefs, passions, and ideas. Still, I can’t help but feel that everyone suddenly becomes ‘political’ once the voting season comes underway. Much like how everyone becomes ‘Irish’ on St. Patty’s Day, or everyone becomes a football fan the weekend of the Super Bowl. I imagine that once the voting season is over, the majority of discussions will turn to other things, e.g. sports, television, or the weather, and the majority of people will consider their service to their community complete. 

Voting can play an important role in shaping a community, but in truth, a large majority of issues being debated in the national media have little to no effect on me or my neighbors’ daily lives. I begin to wonder: what if that middle aged business professional at the sandwich shop was as enthusiastic about volunteering for a neighborhood watch, or feeding the homeless in his community, as he was about voting for his favorite party member? What if he felt it his American duty to help a family in need by donating his money and possessions to charitable organizations; what if instead of volunteering his opinion on national policy, he volunteered his professional work skills? What would America look like then?  

My point is not profound; it is simple. Every American has something to offer their community; yet most only offer a vote every few years and then walk away feeling they’ve done their part. When being political means nothing more than voting between one of two parties (another issue for another time), I began to wonder if people are surrendering their freedom more than they are embracing it. At what point does voting work more for the government than for the people? The saddest part about the voting process is not the government’s willingness to accept voting as adequate involvement, it is instead the willingness of citizens to reduce their involvement to a single, sometimes meaningless, act.

So, my personal challenge this voting season is to turn discussions away from what a particular candidate or policy will accomplish and instead direct it toward what my neighbors and I are going to accomplish. It won’t be easy, but maybe you can do the same. 

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Brad Wortz has degrees in both English Literature and Philosophical Aesthetics. He began his professional career teaching Religion & Worldview courses at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI. After leaving Cornerstone, Brad spent five years teaching Classical English Literature & World Cultural Studies in Philadelphia, PA and in Lake Worth, FL. Brad currently supervises an Adult Day Training Program, for adults with developmental disabilities, which provides services to disabled adults living in the region of Southern Florida. When he is not working, he enjoys painting, biking on Palm Beach, and collecting rare records.