Learn, think, vote

With Tuesday’s elections near, it remains important for voters to do their own research and exercise their voice via the ballot.

After the months of amped-up noise, swirling lights and gyrations inside the inescapable disco that is modern-day election season, it will be a tranquil relief to step into the quiet serenity of polling places Tuesday.

There, with a ballot before us, important work silently beckons. There are important choices to be made on candidates and issues alike. Let us, in large numbers, make them, using clear-headed thinking to guide our way.

Like rivulets that join to become streams and eventually rivers, each voter’s choices meld into a powerful whole that really is greater than the raw sum of its parts. That’s part of the genius of America and its governance.

The results of the Nov. 4 elections hold potential to significantly affect our future path in the Atlanta metro, Georgia and this great nation.

And most of us, even in today’s partisan times, might somehow agree that we’ve rarely been more in need of a North Star of sorts that can focus our widely diverging interests and help guide us toward a higher place. Yet that visual is pretty cloudy these days, given that the divisive sabers of our competing factions are as sharp as ever.

The relentless attacks, endless parsing of the minutest of minutia, flipping of scripts and general flailing about in mudpits has convinced many that, at best, the near-sacred ritual of voting can accomplish little more than, just maybe, deciding among the least-harmful of competing evils.

Add in the sort of corruption and allegations of malfeasance that’re routinely uncovered in the pages of this newspaper and it’s hard not to despair of it all at times.

Yet, we humbly suggest crating up that defeatist view and setting it on a high shelf – at least until after you’ve voted.

It’s better in our view to spend the short time remaining before the election on a personal campaign of broad research into candidates and issues.

Voters fortified with unbiased knowledge remain irreplaceable linchpins in a system of government whose basic soundness has yet to be surpassed in human history.

So do your own research, rather than passively letting campaign marketers herd you toward their desired result. Study sources you both agree with, and dispute. Compare the differences. Consult bipartisan sources such as the Voter Guide of the League of Women Voters of Georgia.

Reach your own conclusions and then stress-test your thinking to see if any logical cracks appear. Then follow your mind; listen to that quiet, inner voice. If you’re a believer, pray for guidance and clarity. Yield to higher instincts and values, rather than seductively attractive baser motivations. You know the difference in your heart.

Ponder whether honestly felt, sincere differences between people and various groups should yield mutual disdain, or even contempt of the kind that political campaigns too often build on today? We think not.

Look around at friends, neighbors, co-workers, and people who may smile back at you at the mall or in a house of worship. Are they really that different, even if they stand across a political aisle from you? Are they bad people? Honestly now?

The answer to these questions will doubtless play a role in what results materialize after the polls close next Tuesday. We’d humbly suggest believing that we truly are all in this together.

This idea may sound radical in today’s riven age, but it is a long ways from new. George Washington spoke of it in his 1796 farewell address.

He said that, “The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.” Washington added that, “much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed … . Washington wisely suggested “indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest … .”

We cannot further enhance the truth of his words. A strength of America is our simultaneous devotion to both a common civic purpose and the powerful individualism that undergirds and enhances it. That the two somehow work in concert, and not in conflict, speaks soundly to the efficacy of our society.

Voting is a powerful way of working toward those ideals. So, fully armed with the strength of knowledgeable conviction, please take to the polls on Tuesday.

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Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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