Is It Worth Your Life?

I was sitting in a creperie with a friend in the ancient Guatemalan capital of  Antigua. It was very Anthony Bourdain if you will. My friend was telling me of getting up one morning, walking down to his car to find it had no door. The rest of the car was charred and reeked of burning plastics. It had been bombed. It was election season.

Except for the inconvenience of it all, my friend was unperturbed. He joked it was good for the economy. After all, he would have to buy another car. This was not his first rodeo nor would it be his last. There was a certain fatalism he emitted. He had learned the code. If the government wanted him dead, this wouldn’t be the way they would do it. This was just a message.

The story popped into my mind as I listened to the announcement of the 10th bomb being found addressed to a famous Democrat whose name coincidentally is one of a carton-full from which the President of the United States pulls for his election rally rants on the road. In Guatemala, in the 1980’s, life wasn’t worth much. People died or were assumed dead, with regularity. Some disappeared forever which is why they were assumed dead. Many had received messages like my friend had. and chose not to listen. More frightening, some had no idea they were on the target list until the moment before they died.

Coming back to 2018 and our own Turkey Shoot, some very well-trained experts have opined that these bombs maybe aren’t supposed to go off, that they are messages. However, they all could have gone off so we don’t know if it was luck, planning, or incompetence that some handler of these packages hasn’t had his/her hands blown off or worse.

Back to the creperie. It was pointed out to me that intimidation was not the only tool used to make people think more than once about voting. Other kinds of voter suppression were high on the list. It isn’t easy when the world is watching your election to suppress the vote. That particular year the placement of polling places was the tool of choice. The indigenous population, whole areas of which don’t speak Spanish as their first language but speak one of a half-dozen or more indigenous languages that have no relationship to Spanish received, like everyone else, all their voting materials in Spanish. I might add many were illiterate in both languages. Sounds a little like Dodge City Kansas today.

The populations, by and large, lived in the mountains so the polling places were put in the cities and suburbs but for a sprinkling in the indigenous regions. They were for show. People walked or rode horses or donkeys or mules, twenty miles or more miles to vote. They held their children by the hand or carried their babies on their backs. Plus food and water and for those who had them umbrellas, not to ward off the rain, but to shield them from the scorching sun. Then there were the snipers, always an excellent “maybe I ought to think again about this voting thing” tool. People were often shot going to vote or walked to the pop-pop-pop of gunfire not knowing if one of the bullets had their name on it. But on they went to exercise their democratic right. They voted.

America has the lowest voter turnout of any democratic system in the world. No one is shooting at us and in many places, you don’t even have to leave your place of residence. If it is a senior home or large apartment or condo complex, the polling station is right there. It could be even easier, but that’s another column. But as easy is measured, voting in these United States is pretty convenient.

Bottom line? If you don’t vote, shame on you. You deserve the other guy’s results because when you don’t vote that’s what you get–at least from my perspective.

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