Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Why anyone would want to be elected to public office, especially in these times of terrorism and recession, is beyond understanding.
But somebody must lead our country, states, counties and cities through these uncharted waters. And it’s up to American voters to choose the most capable yet compassionate officials for the tall tasks to come.
Virginia voters, along with those in New Jersey and New York, have that opportunity and obligation with today’s elections. They must select a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and 100 General Assembly representatives from districts newly drawn by the state legislature’s Republican majority.
No small job. Now more than ever, apathy is simply unacceptable.
Just 12 months ago, we were “a nation divided” in the bitter aftermath of the presidential elections. Today we proudly proclaim to be “a nation united” against terrorism internal and external as we wear and wave the red, white and blue of Old Glory.
It’s time we put our patriotism into practice. Go vote.
Today’s turnout should be one of the largest in history. No better way to show the world that those “born in the USA” are “bloodied but unbowed.”
If ever there was a symbol of freedom, it’s the franchise. The opportunity to cast a ballot for whomever you choose is the bedrock of any democratic society. Seeing photographs of people in other countries lined up to vote makes me wonder why so many Americans have taken voting for granted so many times in our history.
My students point out that they have the freedom not to vote. True, but can we afford that attitude? Freedom is so fragile. If we learned nothing else on September 11, we learned that. Why else are we risking the lives of young soldiers including that of my nephew if not to fight, as President Bush declared, against “people who do not love freedom”?
If we want to honor those innocent victims of the terrorist attacks and if we want to show our support for our troops in the Middle East, we should exercise our freedom to vote.
Too bad we so often fail to realize our personal power. When we don’t vote, we are saying in essence that we’ve given up on democracy, that we no longer believe we can effect change through the most basic of our freedoms.
You’ve heard it said that “all politics is local,” so therefore people vote in their own self-interest. For Northern Virginians, a lot is at stake.
For starters, do you care that you spend as much time getting to your home as you do in your home because of traffic congestion caused, in large part, by political gridlock?
You might be able to keep a few bucks if you vote for a representative least likely to spend your hard-earned dollars repaying big contributors with tax-free incentives and giveaways.
Or you might be among the unfortunates who lost their jobs or businesses even before September 11 and need a creative and compassionate representative who will look out for ordinary people for a change. How about those minimal raises for public employees like state police officers?
Do you care whether your children are being taught by uncertified instructors teaching to rote standards tests in overcrowded classrooms in crumbling schools?
How about health care decided by HMO bureaucrats rather than doctors and nurse practitioners? Which politician supports a credible patient bill of rights? Which of those Virginia politicians want to divert federal Medicaid dollars allotted for nursing homes to offset budget shortfalls in the general fund?
You might think these state and local off-year elections are not worth your time, but think again. It’s at the local level that the political decisions which are made have a greater impact on your daily quality of life.
Tough times lie ahead for this freedom-loving country, which is why no self-respecting, flag-waving American who can vote should vote today.
Adrienne T. Washington’s e-mail address is atwashin@aol.com.

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