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Election Day, 2009

I do this every year, not quadrienially, so here it is:

Election Day, November, 1884, by Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, Book XXXIV: Sands at Seventy.

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara--nor you, ye limitless prairies--nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite--nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones--nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes--nor Mississippi's stream:
--This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name--the still small voice vibrating--America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen--the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd--sea-board and inland--
Texas to Maine--the Prairie States--Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West--the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling--(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity--welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
--Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify--while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

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This year it may not be the powerfulest scene and show, but the local nature—the only thing decided today in my neighborhood is which of the candidates of the minority party will fill the slots reserved for the minority party by charter on the school board and town council, where all the people I voted for are certain to get in—just emphasizes the ways in which electoral politics are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for democracy. It is, if you will allow me the metaphor, the visible manifestation of invisible democracy; it is our American sacrament (secument?). Whether your vote matters or not, your voting matters, even in an off-year. And to quote Mr. Whitman again: Always inform yourself; always do the best you can; always vote. Cross-stitch that on a sampler and hang it on your wall; it may be the most American thing ever said by the most American man who ever lived.

Or, if that's not the America that exists, it's the goal America, the Langston Hughes America, The land that never has been yet—And yet must be, which after all, is the real America anyway, which has always been more aspiration than actuality.

Go vote. Be part of that aspiration. Go vote. The act itself the main. Go vote.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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