A Vote for Myself
OCTOBER 01, 1972 by EDWARD Y. BREESE
Mr. Breese has taught Industrial Management at Georgia Tech and headed the Department of Humanities at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute in Florida. At present he is a free-lance writer.
There’s only one vote I can cast this year or any year that’s of real importance to myself or to anyone else — and it won’t appear on any ballot.
Contrary to what most people feel, the vote I cast in a Presidential election doesn’t seem very important to me. The sheer weight of inertia inherent in a bureaucracy the size of ours makes me doubt that any Chief Executive can really make things either much better or much worse. All of the cells of the body politic tend to go on pursuing their individual aims of growth in the same old way no matter who sits back of that desk in the White House. The legislators and the courts continue to march to their old, familiar drums.
It’s been some time since politics excited me.
Still, I can cast the vote that counts. To my mind, it’s the only one that does count on the local, state or national basis. That’s because it is an intensely personal vote — so personal and so meaningful that I can’t just mark a ballot or pull a lever and then walk away from the voting booth.
This one I have to put into action. I have to live with it day by day and even hour by hour. It becomes action and thought and then action again — so it doesn’t pass away after one count. It doesn’t drop back into the record of events past and forgotten. This vote I must cast over and over and over; it remains a continuing force, setting up innumerable chains of action and reaction, touching the lives of more and more people besides myself.
I’m talking about my own vote for myself, of course. That’s the only one I can cast, and make it stick.
I don’t mean voting for myself for Congress or City Commission or any other public office. I mean the vote I cast for myself as a member in full standing of the human race — my vote of confidence in myself as a rational, responsible citizen — responsible among men and under God. That is the all-important vote. My happiness depends upon it — and my self-respect — and both survival and victory in the battle of life.
Actually, I have little choice. Because I am a sentient being, I have to cast that vote of confidence in myself or just cast it away. If I do the latter, I’ve abdicated a very large part of my membership in the human race. I’ve chosen to accept my status as a second class citizen — or worse. It’s an unthinkable alternative. At least, it’s unthinkable to me.
Of course, once I’ve cast that vote for myself, I’m elected. In that particular balloting it’s the only vote that counts. Before I cast it I have to be willing to assume the responsibilities, the risks, and the duties that go with the election.
I have to be willing to think for myself. Rather than accepting leadership, command, or even blind’ guidance from Authority, I have to use my rational faculties. I have to look behind even the best intentioned propaganda, and find the meaning that may underlie the fine words. I must strive always to be Homo sapiens, the thinking man.
I must strive to be the moral man — that is, to exercise my faculty of telling right from wrong as these apply to me in my own life and circumstance.
Above all, I must strive for the strength to act upon the knowledge of these things.
Rather then yielding to the impulse to complain or resent the political and economic forces which buffet us in the nineteen seventies, I have to be willing to do something within the only span of control that is pragmatically open to me — that is, within my own life.
I must deal with such menaces as inflation and pollution by reliance on the market forces of supply and demand rather than regulation and control and deficit financing by government. I must combat creeping monolithic statism by learning to rely upon my own resources of brain and hands and skills and courage, rather than upon the beneficent "big brotherism" of the welfare state.
Most of all, the vote I cast for myself is one I also must extend to my fellow man. I must grant to him the same right and the privilege of self-reliance that I would claim.
I am not afraid of the predicted "collapse by the year two thousand." That song was being sung to the same tune when the first millenium was ending.
I am going to cast a vote for myself this year, and each year, in the assurance that I am not alone in this, and that we who do so not only will survive but will build a world in which we all may live.