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The Face of a Volunteer

November 10, 2014
How do you know when a politician is lying?

You can finish the sentence can’t you.  The only problem is, it isn’t true…at least not all of the time. I realize that may be difficult to believe. And here’s another thing that will be difficult to take in…we share the blame if they lie and aren’t held accountable.

I hear it all the time, “I can’t stand all the BS!;” “If I have to erase one more voicemail from a #%¥! politician I’m going to scream;” “My mailbox is full of these stupid political ads;” “I hate those political commercials;” I’m certain you can add your own saying to the list.

It’s all too easy to stand back, as 50% to 70% of us do depending upon whether it’s a Presidential election year or not, and complain about how all politicians lie, our vote doesn’t matter, it’s all about the money, yada, yada.  Let me ask you a question though, without all those ads, mailers and knocks at your door, would you even know there was an election? Would you even care?  How would you find out about those who desire to serve you–or rule over you, depending upon their motivation–in our democratic Republic?

Newspaper? Not really read much anymore. TV? Not watched as it once was, and most skip the commercials. Radio? Maybe, but probably not. Just how is someone who seeks to represent you supposed to reach out to you? And how are you going to even remotely discover what makes them tick if they don’t tell you?

Do you know who those “wretched politicians” are? For the most part, they’re your neighbor.  A school teacher, coach, small business owner, local attorney, retired principal, corporate employee, etc. There are over 500,000 elected officials in this nation of ours, the majority of whom spend a few thousand dollars generously donated by their friends and neighbors to buy a few signs and print literature to run for school board, library board, town trustee, and the like.

Yes, there are those “fat cat” millionaires, and Chicago Machine mutants that regularly rear their ugly heads as they prance into office on a red carpet laid down by a system designed to keep them ensconced in perpetuity.  But who’s fault is that ultimately?  Brace yourself…it’s We the People. I know, a reference to that old Constitution which is so passé, but I just can’t help myself.
In all of this, there is one person overlooked as we spew our invectives, and if you’ve ever had the opportunity to meet him or her, you might have a change of heart. It is the face of a volunteer. I know, because I’ve looked into their eyes.

I’ve been in a local political party for over ten years, and while I’ve been one of those volunteers, I’ve never had the opportunity to see them from the inside of a campaign looking out until now. For the first time, I’m deeply involved as a Campaign Director for a State Representative race and I’ve witnessed someone amazing.

A retired couple who tirelessly walks from door to door; a man struggling with throat cancer wanting to help in any way he can; a shy woman who shutters to think of speaking in front of others, but will deliver doughnuts and pizza to polling places starting at 7am; a man who isn’t a morning person, rising at 5am to protect the integrity of the vote by being a poll watcher; a young person who stuffs a thousand envelopes; a man who calls to obtain the master copy of a sample ballot, prints them at his own expense, and then distributes them to all of his neighbors; two couples who open their home to their neighbors and host a “Meet & Greet” so they can speak with local candidates one on one; and I could go on for days.  These are just some of the stories I know of, but I’m certain there thousands, if not millions more across this country.

So the next time you’re upset about lying politicians and the nuisance of elections remember if you don’t vote, you share the blame. If you do vote, and then reelect the “liar,” you share the blame. And if you’d like to know what democracy looks like, look into the face of a volunteer.

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