I was standing in line at the grocery store the other night when I overheard a political conversation.
From what I could hear, it was painfully obvious neither man would budge an inch from their own personal opinion.
It wasn’t really clear what the Great Aisle 6 Debate was about, but it was increasingly animated. One man kept mumbling about his rights, and waved his arms about like some madman. At one point the other man slammed whatever he was carrying down on the floor so he could start waving his arms about.
I remained in the aisle for some time, as I was reading ingredients on a couple different cans of soup.
Finally, the question burning in my mind was asked by one of the two men.
“Tell me this Jim — did you vote?”
Jim’s reply had my head jerk around incredulously.
“What does THAT have to do with anything?”
The man who asked picked up his stuff from the floor, and started walking away.
“If you can’t bother to take a few minutes to vote, I can’t be bothered to argue with you — you get what you get.”
I was proud to hear those words, and stopped him before he got by me completely.
“I am so glad you said that,” I told him. “All the time I get people trying to start political debates with me — and that’s the first question I ask them is if they voted.”
He laughed and said, “We’ve argued for a great many years now,” the man said. “We used to work together down in Williamsburg. He used to vote, but I don’t know what happened that he doesn’t anymore.”
I asked him if he was a regular voter.
“Oh, absolutely. I haven’t missed an election since 1952,” he said. “And the only reason I missed that year was I was in Korea.”
He added he brought home shrapnel in one of his legs.
“So you only have missed one election in your life?” I asked.
He wouldn’t tell me his name, even though I asked a couple times.
“I recognize you,” he laughed. “But I will tell you I’m 82 years young.”
We had a few more words, but said he was getting winded and needed to get to his car.
I was impressed.
And then I got to thinking — which can often be dangerous.
Here’s this man in his 80s, with a slight limp and obviously some other health issues — but the man still made a point to go cast his ballot.
I’ll say it again — I was impressed.
When I was a kid, my mother would take us with her to the voting booths. As we got older, she would discuss the ballots with us — who’s running for what position, which party they belonged to, or various other items that would show up on the ballot.
She never discussed her personal votes, but she made it a point to teach us the fundamental value of voting.
And as adults, me and both of my sisters are adamant voters.
As some of you may know, I started working in this beautiful part of the country on the first day of November last year.
Of course, days later the Presidential election was under way.
I was assigned to hang out with Kay Schwartz, Whitley County Clerk, down in the courthouse in Williamsburg.
I watched local results, and state results, and of course, national numbers.
After the polls in Kentucky closed, the precinct leaders began coming in with the voting results.
At the end of the night, Schwartz was happy with the number of voters.
She had said the expected turnout was about 50 percent of registered voters.
So that means the other 50 percent of registered voters let somebody else decide the world for them.
That’s not counting those not even registered to vote.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Look, I’m not going to tout that I’m a Republican, or a Democrat, or whatever.
I am going to tout that I am a voter.
My choices may not always earn their seats — but if they don’t, I feel I have the right to complain about it because I cast my ballot.
It was only a few generations ago that only white men could cast a ballot.
Then in 1870, black men were granted the right to vote through the 15th Constitutional Amendment.
Fifty years later in 1920, the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.
And here we are, not quite 100 years later, and half the population could care less about casting a ballot.
Think about it the next time you get involved in a political conversation.
If you didn’t bother to take a few minutes to vote, don’t bother wasting anyone’s time arguing about the results.
Shut up and take your medicine.
Reporter John Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.