Some cartoons, political or otherwise, are SO nail-on-the-head right that they ought to be required reading…er…viewing…er…whatever, for aware citizens.  The AB-J had a pip just the other day in a series called “Pearls Before Swine” (Think about that for a while) which is a little off-the-wall at the best of times , into lame puns and sight gags but this one could be considered a voice of prophecy, in a way.

First panel : a bald, semi-shaven guy with dark glasses, a broken nose, a “wife-beater” undershirt and black vest walks in and says, “Repo man here.”  Rat, standing there next to Pig (recurring characters with definite personalities in the strip), says, “Repo Man?  I’m not behind on my car payments.”

Second panel : The guy carries a ballot box—locked—away in the same direction he came from and says, “Not here for your car.  I’m taking back your democracy.  Too few people bother to read or stay informed or even vote.  So off it goes.”  Rat and Pig watch him go.

Third panel : Rat turns to Pig and says, “I hate it when that happens.”

Me too.

I’ve been serving as a poll worker for about seven years now and it always makes me proud to see a former student come in to cast a ballot; wish that I’d see even more of them.  It used to be a regular thing in the seventh grade to take my classes down to the Precinct A polls on High Street to observe the voting; the poll workers were always helpful and welcoming and happy to explain the procedures to the kids. Pity we can’t do stuff like that anymore.  The curriculum has changed so that civic education of that sort doesn’t really make an appearance until junior or senior year.  Cultivate interest early, I say.  Build on it.  Encourage it.

I remember telling classes that I was really excited about turning twenty-one (The dinosaurs and I had a party—right in front of a glacier.) and someone said, “Yeah, then you could drink!”  The thought never crossed my mind.  I could vote!  That was way more important.

It IS neat that young adults can now register to vote in government classes.  The risk is that they will become like all too many older adults and fail to live up to their responsibilities as citizens.  People will loudly go on and on about their “rights” and just sort of whisper about the other side of the coin, which would require them to actually DO something.

Like voting, for instance.  The polls are open thirteen hours—thirteen hours! For goodness’ sake, how many of us have to be tied down, nose-to-the-grindstone for so long  and at such a vital activity that we can’t arrange for the time to contribute to the fate of the Republic?  The date  of Election Day is determined far ahead of time(First Tuesday after the first Monday in November) so anybody who cares can work it into the schedule.  Absentee ballots are easily available to be put in the mail.  The Board of Elections office is open on weekdays at the county seat.  Think of the posters and advertisements around promoting seatbelt use—What’s Holding You Back?  Equally important, folks.

It would probably be a good thing to have some idea about what you’re voting for, too.  Pay attention.  Don’t just  reflexively pick a party and vote for everybody of that particular persuasion.  Investigate a little.  Read…on both sides.  Listen to what they’re saying.  Check out ratings and non-partisan assessments.  “Due diligence” can make a difference in what you actually see and understand.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t just vote “no”…or “yes”… on everything without understanding what the question is.  Emergency medical services( or fire & rescue or law enforcement), for instance, are something that we have to support all of the time or they won’t be available when we do need them.  Do you figure that saving a couple of bucks on your taxes is worth watching a neighbor gasping for breath trapped in a collapsed ditch on the back forty?  Will your money show up at a football game to take a kid with a broken leg to the emergency room?  The services of the Portage County District Library may not interest you but the programs that the various branches(Aurora, Garrettsville, Streetsboro, Windham) offer boost our schools(and home schoolers), provide for nursing home residents, give the  non-computer public a place to interact with information and opportunities on the web. That’s a bargain, any way you look at it.  Small money, big rewards.

Taxes are the price we pay for the things that we could not do alone : roads, bridges, parks, armies, navies, air traffic control, libraries, health departments, regulations of weights and measures…a whole raft of things that we seldom see but would certainly notice if they were gone.  And, sure, nobody wants to pay more than they need to (Arthur Godfrey said, “I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States.  The only thing is—I could be just as proud for half the money.”) but doing your part to keep the “ship of state” afloat is a pretty important responsibility, at least as important as premium cable and/or top-of-the-line phone plans.  We might ponder the words of Will Rogers, “Thank heavens we don’t get all of the government we pay for.”Or, on the other hand, Henry Ward Beecher said, ”The worst thing in the world, next to anarchy, is government.”

Think about THAT. And vote!