14 September 2016: Take the time to vote intelligently

It’s not easy living in a participatory democracy. A citizen’s work is 24/7, never done. Our liberty and freedoms didn’t come easily and holding on to them is arguably more challenging. The old maxim states nothing is free, that someone has paid, is paying, or will pay the price for the desired object even if the direct beneficiaries do nothing to earn or deserve it.

Our birthright—citizenship in the world’s oldest constitutional republic—is one of those. Freedom, like one’s life, family, and stuff, requires not only constant vigilance, but is absolutely dependent upon an educated citizenry.

This election pretty much has focused on the national scene, and that’s not going to change. Probably everyone has an opinion on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Many offer evidence, even if thoughtlessly insubstantial, for their support or disdain for them.

But what about the issues that will be populating the Colorado ballot this November? Questions about implementing Colorado Care, raising the minimum wage, instituting a primary, raising the bar to amend the state’s constitution, allowing for death with dignity, and more? Then there is our local ballot issue: The Health Service District.

For each of them, the question every voter must ask is whether he/she has sufficient knowledge about the issue to make an informed, intelligent choice.

In just over four weeks, active voters will be receiving their ballots in the mail. That’s active voters. Are you registered and if so, are you sure you are classified as active? If you voted in 2014 and still reside where you did then, you are likely good. If not, you might have a problem. The point is that if you have any doubt, now is the time to check and confirm. One way is to check online by visiting the Colorado secretary of state’s website; the other is check with Clerk and Recorder Pam Phipps.

Then get prepared. The ballot this year might feel daunting given its length and complexity of the items being considered, each of which will be written, as you can imagine, in legalese 101.

Several questions for yourself: How much homework have you done on them? How thoughtfully can you speak or write on them? How much time have you spent weighing the pros and cons? Have you discussed the issues with others? Can you discuss them and not sound uninformed, or more crassly put, stupid?

In short, how educated of a citizen are you and, thus, deserving of your citizenship? How proud are you of being not only an American, but a respectful one?

No, I’m not trying to shame anyone. Rather, my ongoing objective in this virtual classroom is to promote and foster an involved, thoughtful citizenry. Short of laying down one’s life in defense of our freedoms, whether on a foreign battlefield or in a domestic scene, there is no higher expression of patriotism. Thoughtful voters get that and either have already begun the process or will begin, in eager anticipation or grudgingly as one might look forward to a root canal.

Grousing and complaining come easily, even naturally, to some; taking time to fulfill one’s civic responsibility, on the other hand, requires effort, engagement, and dedication.

It matters. It matters how involved you are. It matters how educated you get yourself. It matters if you vote or not. It matters because in the end, everyone votes, actively or passively. By making no choice one is making a choice. That’s the conundrum we face as breathing, sentient souls. Participation is not an option; it’s a de facto outcome of existence.

If you intend to take another breath, you are agreeing to participate. How well and how effectively, though, is a choice. You can be smart or stupid. That’s a choice, and that choice matters.

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