Monday, November 5, 2012

The Election

Tomorrow we vote.  I believe that elections are sacred occasions.  This day sanctifies our obligation to this nation.  It is a day that should renew our faith in America.  Sometimes however I find my faith waning.  At such times I reach for words from ages past.

Thus I recall those of the great American poet and playwright, Stephen Vincent Benet.  They were part of a radio broadcast following the election of 1940.
Let us say this much to ourselves, not only with our lips but in our hearts. Let us say this:

I myself am a part of democracy—I myself must accept responsibility. Democracy is not merely a privilege to be enjoyed—it is a trust to keep and maintain. When by idle word and vain prejudice, I create distrust of democracy itself, by so much do I diminish all democracy. When I tell my children that all politics is a rotten machine and all politicians thieves and liars, by so much do I shake their faith in the world that they too must build. When I let loose intolerance, whether it be of race, creed or class, I am letting loose a tiger. When I spend my time vilifying and abusing a duly-elected government of the people because I did not vote for it, by so much do I weaken confidence in government by the people itself. Rich or poor, young or old, Republican or Democrat, I cannot afford these things.  
I cannot afford them because there are forces loose in the world that would wipe all democracy out. They will take my idle words and make their own case with them.
They will take my halfhearted distrust, and with it sow, not merely distrust, but disunion. They will take my hate and make of it a consuming fire.

Let each one of us say: I am an American. I intend to stay an American. I will do my best to wipe from my heart hate, rancor and political prejudice. I will sustain my government. And, through good days or bad, I will try to serve my country.
Reaching back I hope to move forward with renewed confidence.

P.S. I want to thank my friend and colleague, Rabbi Lee Friedlander, for pointing me in the direction of Stephen Vincent Benet.

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