Why I chose not to vote today and then did anyway.

Here is a fundamental truth about me:

I do not like to be told what to do.

The more I am told what to do, the less likely I will do it, especially if:

  • I am being told what to do with great earnestness.
  • Failure to comply will not result in any serious negative consequences.

Today is a perfect example of this fundamental truth in action.

I opened my eyes this morning, looking forward to voting in today’s election.

I take a peek at Twitter through bleary eyes and see a handful of tweets urging me to vote. Simple reminders to vote don’t bother me, but the tweets that attempt to appeal to my civic duty and my patriotism annoy the hell out of me.

Don’t tell me what to do, and especially don’t tell me why you think I should do it.

I want to vote a little less now.

A little later I pop onto Facebook. This is where things start going downhill in a big way.

Extreme earnestness and self-righteousness are on full display this morning all over Facebook. Individuals who have deemed it necessary to proselytize to their friends about the nature, value, and benefits of voting are out in force today. They are pounding on their keyboard in sanctimonious glee.   

An example of the kind of Facebook message that annoys the hell out of me goes something like this:

It’s Election Day, friends. We are blessed as Americans to possess this sacred right, so please don’t waste it. Look into your heart and vote your conscience today. No matter what you political affiliation, we are all Americans. It is our duty to vote. Soldiers and patriots have given their lives so you can pull that lever today. Please be sure to exercise your right.  

Now I’m completely annoyed.

I’m not saying that this is the best way to be, but it’s the way I am.

The inane earnestness, the painful obviousness contained within the statement, the sheer weight of cliché, and seeming need of some people to take an oratorical, parental, paternal or Sermon on the Mount approach to something as basic and personal as voting makes me no longer want to vote.

Instead, I find myself wanting to do exactly the opposite of what these people are telling me to do. I want to not vote in hopes of ruining their day or at least convincing them that next time, I don’t need their reminder to vote.

No one needs a reminder to vote.

Everyone knows it’s Election Day.

Anyone who turns on a television or a radio or a computer or drives down the street or speaks to a friend on the telephone knows that today is Election Day.

We all know that today is the day to vote.

I can only assume that the person who feels the need to employ this level of self-righteous earnestness in an effort to convince a friend to vote must live in some kind of pious, self-satisfied bubble. Unfortunately, they have poked their heads out of their bubble long enough today to annoy me.

Now I don’t want to vote. The fundamental truth that I do not like to be told what to do has been activated, and I must now decide if I can purposefully not vote and (just as important) tell everyone that I decided not to vote.

I consider the second condition by which I decide whether to actively not do what I have been told:

  • Failure to comply will not result in any serious negative consequences.

In the grand scheme of things, this is probably true as well. While every vote counts, it is unlikely that my vote will determine the fate of any political race. It is possible for me not to vote today and have no election result changed in any way.

So now I am seriously thinking about not voting. In fact, the idea of not voting as a direct result of a friend’s earnest appeal to vote warms me inside. I smile. I discover a skip in my step. My heart soars.

I was told to vote, so now I am not going to vote.

Like I said, this is not the best way to be, but it’s me.

But here’s the problem:

I want to vote.

Underneath the layers of spite and pettiness and annoyance, and beyond my extreme desire to ruin the day of an overly-earnest proselytizer lies the desire to express my political will by pulling a lever.

In my gut, I still want to vote.

In the end, it comes down to this:

Whose day would I rather ruin?

The annoying Facebook friend who seems to think that he or she is the patron saint of voting or the political candidate whose positions I despise?

Whose day is better ruined?

My vote may not alter the course of the election, but when my candidate wins, I will know that I played a role in defeating the opposition.

That would warm me inside as well. That would put a smile on my face and a skip in my step and cause my heart to soar.  

In a perfect world, there would be a way to ruin the day of the Facebook friend and the political candidate, but sadly, this is not a perfect world.

But voting for the right candidate might make it a more perfect world, though, so in the end, I choose to vote. 

I vote because I want to vote. I opened my eyes this morning looking forward to voting, and that is what I will do. I cannot allow the sanctimony and self-righteousness of Facebook friends to strip me of my opportunity to exact my political will.

Next time I’ll take my wife’s advice and just avoid Facebook altogether.