Typing in "John Galt" as a write-in for about ten state and local races made my 45-minute wait at the polls worth it yesterday morning. There were also three constitutional amendments for my consideration. Two were about allowing state funds to be invested in equities, and I voted with assurance. The third was about the age of consent in South Carolina, and had nebulous implications. I was ambivalent, but I voted anyway. That was probably a mistake. When I reviewed and submitted my ballot, the machine beeped at me, alerting me that I had not voted in the presidential race--did I really want to leave that blank?
Yes, Mr. Diebold. Yes I do.
Explaining my vote, or lack thereof, was something I thought might be enjoyable, but it became tiresome and unproductive. A non-vote is ambiguous and slippery. A vote for something says more than a vote against. It offers no tags, categories, or any other meta-data with which my peers can quickly sort me. Staying unaffiliated helps one think better, but I wonder if I'm a staunch individualist merely because I like being an unknown quantity or a contrarian.
I spent a fun evening with a politically homogeneous crowd. When CNN called the election, there were shouts of joy, hugs, and in one case, a near hyperventilation. There was boasting when a certain place, whether precinct or state, was called. People pointed with pride at vote counts reflecting their individual contributions. I peered at the shiny graphics, but my contribution did not reflect back. One cannot count what is not there. I had cast a ballot, but I had not voted.
So great was the room’s joy that it could not be contained by the limits of physical nearness. Calls were made, texts received, statuses updated. We could, we did, we can. The world was alight. The world was paying attention. The world cared.
I drove home and read the thoughts of others. I had trouble putting my own into order. I came upon Camus:
And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself — so like a brother, really — I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.
I slept well.
Addendum: I liked this piece very much.