So much is at stake in this political moment in our country. Yet we don’t listen to the news because we can’t trust it. We don’t discuss issues with our friends and family for fear of striking a nerve and losing important relationships. We don’t research candidates for office because we know we are going to vote “R” or “D” based on our ideology or identity. We delete or block people on social media who we disagree with, effectively sealing ourselves in echo chambers that comfortably reaffirm our ideas. We do all of this in the name of being at peace and preserving our mental health. Meanwhile, the preservation of our Constitution and its protection of freedom hangs in the balance.
America recently marked 225 years since the founding fathers signed the Constitution and began this great experiment. This Constitutional Republic has survived wars, pandemics, economic depressions and more. Through it all, Americans have shaped our country and its values by disagreeing, debating, marching and voting. The persistence of former generations have been centered on preserving our fundamental natural rights as humans. English philosopher John Locke described those as “life, liberty and property.” Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence later refined Locke’s thesis on natural rights as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today, we are faced with great challenges – from a global pandemic and the devastating economic pressures in its wake to a racial awakening and mounting challenges from a changing climate. These challenges are compounded by an ever increasing political and social divide that has been exacerbated by the prevalence of social media and the evolution of national news outlets to partisan communications machines. Amidst the cacophony of partisan yelling, voters are increasingly weary.
On top of the sheer exhaustion we all feel in this environment, we’re also isolated by the pandemic and by an epidemic of loneliness in the personal bubbles we create with technology. We are at risk of mass apathy – including not taking seriously the sacred obligation to participate in the most fundamental action in a democracy: voting. When we retreat into ourselves, we are allowing the divine rights we have been given to be sacrificed. If we care about addressing the set of challenges that our country faces, we should care about how we cast our vote — and not just for president.
As a Georgian and a Newton County resident, you also have the opportunity to vote for two Senate seats, likely a U.S. House seat, two seats on the Georgia Public Service Commission, representation in the Georgia General Assembly, and a host of local seats for District Attorney, Probate Court, Sheriff, Tax Commissioner, Coroner, County Commission chairman and board of education. In addition, you will be asked to vote on two state constitutional amendments, a statewide referendum and a 1% sales tax on transportation.
When we approach the ballot box on Nov. 3, we will etch into the official record our individual beliefs about the challenges we face. It is a critical moment in our collective lives that will define the course of our governments for years to come. So, no matter your political affiliation, we must not take this responsibly lightly. We must search our hearts and learn more about why we believe what we believe. We must research and educate ourselves so that we can challenge the people who are asking for our votes.
Don’t retreat into your shell. Register to vote or check your registration status before Oct. 5. Don’t simply rely on a candidate’s party affiliation. Research candidates and compare their views and policies to your own beliefs. Discuss the election with your friends and family. Make plans to vote early or mail in your ballot, or if you have to vote on Nov. 5, make plans with your employer to wait in line. The preservation of our Constitution and the protection of our natural rights is at stake. Don’t take this moment lightly.
Matt Hestad has worked in Georgia’s forestry and natural resource sector for more than seven years as a communications and marketing professional. He and his wife, Bianca, are proud residents of Newton County and members of Eastridge Church.