by Cindy Evans, contributing writer
As another local election rolls around, I have been struck by the contrast between democracy as an idea, and democracy as a reality.
I turn on the news and see American leaders expressing the importance of bringing democracy to countries across the globe. I watch protesters and armed fighters who are willing to be killed, beaten, raped and shunned for the right not to be governed by dictators.
I see American service men and women far from home, pleading with our leaders to leave them in the desert a little longer so they can “get the job done” and give the Afghan and Iraqi people democratic rule.
Young people in Egypt are demanding a new path for their future. Women in Syria are demanding to be heard. Sadly, some African countries continue to change power through brutal tribal wars instead of the ballot box.
I will never forget the image of Iraqis, proudly holding up their hands with one finger died purple to show they voted. After decades under Saddam Hussein, it must have been like feeling the sun on your face after a brutal storm.
Yet, with all that Americans have been given by our predecessors, with voting locations not more than 10 minutes from most homes in the area, only 4,100 of the 126,000 people in McKinney voted in early voting. If the same number votes today, that will be about 8,000 out of 126,000, or 6.4 percent.
Somewhere there is a disconnect. My husband likes to say “it is the unmet need that motivates,” and I suspect that is a lot of it. We already have our freedom. But having been involved in local public service, I also know that those of you who don’t vote are missing something so precious by staying home. Just the act of voting connects you to all the other Americans who are supporting our democracy in tangible ways.
State Representative Ken Paxton leaves his family for months at a time to go to Austin to serve his State. McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller spends hours away from home representing our City. MISD School Board President Lynn Sperry has spent more than two decades and thousands of hours working to create the best school environment for every kid who walks through the door of an MISD school. And there are dozens more like them.
This election day, I have a wish. I wish for you to truly know the blessing of democracy that has been given to you by so many others. I wish that when you see the roadside littered with campaign signs, it will remind you that you live in a country where our leaders aren’t chosen by birthright or violence. I wish you wouldn’t see those signs as eyesores, but see that they contain the names of ordinary, everyday people who have the privilege of participating in the democratic process without the fear of being shot or carried off in the night. Just imagine how those signs must look to someone in Iran, North Korea, Somalia or Libya.
Today, when you are mowing your yard or running off to Wal-Mart, take one minute to reflect on the freedoms we so often take for granted. Hopefully, it will steer you toward your local polling place.