A healthy diet of politics that actually matter

This week, or rather Tuesday specifically, will be one that’ll require much rest, training and preparation, at least on our part here at the paper and anyone running for election.

It’s also the day I’m scheduled to become an uncle for the first time, so work and family will become an extreme juggle of stress and time management. But that’s my problem, and my job to solve it. The real thing I wanted to talk about this week is, hopefully, to remind anyone who hasn’t taken the five minutes out of your day to go and vote.

OK, I know sometimes going to the polls can be a gamble. Whenever I’ve been unlucky to arrive only to see a line of people spilling out into the street, I immediately turn around, thinking “Who has time for that?” And I can imagine it’s even harder if you’re a single mother with two kids, working three jobs and don’t necessarily have the time to catch up on what’s happening in local politics.

I never like to talk about who I’ll vote for, or if I lean more toward Democrat or Republican ideologies and ethics. To me, it’s impossible to put all of your beliefs and ideals into one pre-subscribed way of thought. Inspiration and good ideas can come from all sorts of places, and everyone is different. The world and humans are just too complicated to think one way or the other will work for everybody.

Not to mention, as a journalist, it’s not my place to speak out on who people should vote for. I don’t even hang signs in my front yard no matter how much I like a certain candidate.

Politics are a personal thing, and everyone is coming from a different background in what they hope for in their leaders. For example, certain government decisions might affect me, a single person who rents his home and has no kids, differently than say, a small business owner, homeowners, people with multiple children or those who rely on government programs like welfare. It’s different for everybody, so therefore it should be nobody’s business but the voter’s about who they vote for and why.

But I can’t stress enough the importance of voting and taking the extra time to learn about your local politicians, because they are the ones making the decisions that will most-directly affect you, your kids and a community’s future.

Before it became my job to follow the local powers that be, going to those long government meetings, or getting to know the key players and how they hoped to shape a community’s development, I knew next to nothing about what local politicians do. I’d pay attention to the national presidential elections every four years, getting caught up in the campaign and watching everyone fight over their choice in deciding the next commander-in-chief. But I couldn’t tell you who the mayor was or the hot items on that month’s city council agenda.

Truth be told, I don’t think there has been a president that has significantly affected my day-to-day life, and there’s also the whole electoral college and your vote not really counting in the end thing that just takes me out of the game. But who I vote into the mayor’s office might affect how my tax dollars are spent, if the roads outside of my house will be made safer and if the community’s first responders are well taken care of.

It was when I started learning about how important local elections are that I finally “got it.” And in a growing community like Maury County, it is especially important.

The people you vote for are the ones who decide if roads are going to be built, if there will be enough schools for the growing population, or if they respect the preservation of history, all things that really matter to us on a personal level. It’s the decisions that affect what you do when you step outside of your house every day.

Sadly, I still don’t think enough people understand it, or maybe they’re just unwilling because politics is boring. I’m always kind of appalled at Middle Tennessee’s consistent low voter turnout when the numbers finally come in.

You have to keep aware people, because believe it or not this stuff matters.

Sure, there’s always the drawn out rigmarole of meetings, discussions and politics operating at the speed of molasses, but I believe awareness of what’s going on in your community is just as important as keeping a healthy diet. It takes a little effort on our own part, but it pays to know what’s going on and what the people we vote into office have envisioned for us. It’s also a good feeling knowing that the minuscule time put into going to a voting precinct actually counts for something in the end.

And let’s not forget, voting is a privilege not everyone has in this world. As much as it is a right to believe our government is nothing but a bunch of corrupt scumbags with a sordid history of not exactly helping the little man, the working man, veterans and the people who need it most, we have to remember that at the heart of it all we are the deciders. That feels sort of empowering, even if it’s just the moment you leave the booth, grab an “I voted” sticker and post a selfie to Instagram.

Go vote this Tuesday, at the very least, because local elections are what decides our tomorrow.

Jay Powell is a reporter for The Daily Herald. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JayPowellCDH.

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