The value of a vote

I am always amazed at the number of people who are willing to say on national television that they decide for whom they will vote in presidential primaries when they enter the polling booth. Their lackadaisical attitude is disheartening.

If there is one thing we have in this country, it is an abundance of sources and people extolling the virtues — or weaknesses — of the candidates. Why is it we follow with more interest the ups and downs of reality-show contestants than the records and opinions of those vying to become our next president?

It is not as if the policies and actions of our leaders affect only a minuscule group of people. Whatever the leaders we elect decide to do has immense repercussions throughout the world.

During every presidential campaign we are treated to a three-ring circus dominated by pundits who shout purported political commentary while reveling in the gamesmanship and dirty tricks of campaigns. If we dig a little deeper on our own, however, we can find much more relevant information about the candidates’ positions on issues affecting this country.

This year’s sound bite from all of the candidates is “change.”

Too bad they are not including the word “regime” in front of it, as President Bush did to justify invading Iraq. Maybe if our presidential candidates did that, we would pay more attention to what they stand for and what they would do to this country.

I can’t wait for the regime change that will take place next January. I am tired of listening to a president who, when dealing with people who are suffering, can hardly formulate a sentence, who lacks the most basic scintilla of sensitivity. During his recent visit to Israel, Bush joked about his motorcade not being stopped at the checkpoint in Ramallah, something Palestinians have to live with every day, sometimes waiting for hours to get emergency services at a hospital on the other side.

These days, while traveling in other countries, I am often told, “We like Americans. It is the government we don’t like.”

I can no longer accept that dichotomy. The majority of us are directly responsible for our government: those who voted for the leadership, those who voted without giving any serious consideration and those who chose not to vote.

On Feb. 5, we will have a chance to go to the polls in nearly two-dozen states to select who we think should be the next presidential nominees. I hope we will consider this vote for at least a few days before casting our ballots.

In an interview that aired Nov. 18 on PBS, Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was asked how she could campaign if she couldn’t hold rallies. Bhutto replied that she had been using television to convey the message of what she hoped to accomplish:

“To provide employment and education, and reform the political system, reform the educational system so that we can teach our young people the skills that they need to know and give them the knowledge that will help them build a pluralistic society.”

Bhutto also said that she was risking her life to campaign because when “there is a cause that is larger than oneself, one has to take the risks.”

Bhutto and scores of her supporters have made the ultimate sacrifice for democracy in Pakistan. Surely we in the United States can sacrifice a little time and serious effort for the cause of electing the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

(Bessy Reyna is a free-lance writer whose column appears monthly in the Hartford Courant in Connecticut. To leave her a comment in English or Spanish, please call 860-241-3165; or e-mail her at bessy_reyna(at)