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Points of View
Not Who, But What
My Point of View, November, 2012
© Rabbi Jack Moline

By now it is no surprise to you that this column for November in an election year is an admonition to exercise the franchise: get out there and vote.

We are blessed to live in a society that gives every adult, irrespective of any consideration beyond citizenship, an equal voice in determining the elected leaders on national, state and local levels. That privilege in and of itself ought to be enough to get you out the door and to the polling place or, if you'd rather, to vote absentee early.

As Rabbi Jane Kanarek suggests in her section on citizenship in The Observant Life*, one of the ways we as individuals can fulfill the mandate from the Torah of "justice, justice shall you pursue" is to vote. That is, our system of government that finds its mission in the preamble to the Constitution has established a way for each of us to pursue a just society. That practice - voting - is a just way for our collective goal to be realized.

At this moment in the election cycle (when excitement and impatience are present in equal measure), I always recall the words of two Presidents, one a Republican and the other a Democrat. Abraham Lincoln succinctly defined our system as government of the people, by the people and for the people. As Oliver Hardy once said to Stan Laurel, "You are the people." While the designation may seem facile, the title is far from glib. Without the participation of the people and decision making by the people, there can be no government for the people.

John Kennedy famously challenged us to ask not what your country can do for you, rather to ask what you can do for your country. There may be a long list of things you can do for your country, including military service, foreign service, public service, volunteer service and engagement in advocacy. Those opportunities depend on your age, availability and inclination. But there is indeed one thing every adult citizen can do for the country, and that is to cast a vote whenever the privilege is available.

I know that we are all looking nervously around the world at other regimes. Some hold onto to power by force, others by razor-thin margins in coalitions, and still others by tamping down popular dissatisfaction. Our country will peacefully hand the winner of each elective contest the authority of office for a prescribed time without a bullet, an arrest or propaganda. Whatever leads up to that moment that you vote, the decision is yours with no one to please other than your conscience.

That's a blessing of extraordinary proportions. Don't forget to vote. *The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews, Rabbinical Assembly, 2012.

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