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Punch the Donkey 

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Several years ago I took my son with me to our voting district in Sandy. Mercifully, we’ve moved since then, and what follows is just one reason why. Pete was only 4 or 5 at the time, but he was curious about voting and I figured a civics lesson in democracy couldn’t be a bad thing. It was snowing like crazy and bitter cold, but the lines still stretched outside the school. We got in one of the lines.

We talked as we inched forward. I told him voting for the person, not the party, is an important concept. In a weak moment, I even confessed that I had voted for a Republican or two, and that I intended to this time. I taught him that democracy was a Greek word meaning “rule by the people,” and that’s why we vote. I told him my Cretan grandfather voted straight-ticket Democrat for 70 years and referred to Republicans as “doorty no goot sunamabeeches.” Given the shenanigans of several Republicans this year, one might suggest some things never change.

It took about an hour to get to the voting booth. Pete asked me why people were pulling the covers behind them. I told him that in America, voting is personal and private and that therein lies the true power of a democracy. And, I told him, for democracy to really work, we must have the freedom to vote according to our individual wills, not that of any entity or institution or special interest.

It was our turn to vote. Just as I was handed the booklet I got a tap on the shoulder. The middle-aged woman who had stood silently behind us for that hour said, “Excuse me, I want to vote Republican. Is this the Republican line or the Democrat line?” I thought, “You’ve got to be shittin’ me,” so I told her she was in the Democrat line. She said she was afraid of that and walked away.

I looked down at my son and said, “Forget about what I just told you, Pete.” Inside the booth I told him to grab the stylus and look for the Donkey. He found it. “Now,” I told him, “punch the donkey.”

At that moment I was angry, mystified and sad. Everything I had tried to teach my son had been countermanded by a simple act of ignorant bliss, and looking around, I knew ignorant bliss was in the majority. We walked back outside into the snow and cold. At the end of one of the lines stood the woman. She waved and said, “Thank you.” u

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