Chipotle and voting

| Forum Editor

Not long ago, I waited 45 minutes in line with my roommates to get a free Chipotle burrito. The line wound its way out of the store and around the nearby parking lot. Wash. U. students came in hoards—on bikes, on foot, in cars. We all waited and waited—with notable patience and good humor—for what ended up tasting like, well, the best burrito of our lives. But long before I satisfied my hunger, I listened to the guy in front of me expound on politics. The more the line slowed down, the more he seemed to talk. The specific topic of his rant: to vote or not to vote. He offered an exuberant “not.”

He explained to his squirmy companion that her vote would surely be canceled out immediately after she cast it—said it wouldn’t even make a difference. He told her the candidates are all the same anyway.

If I were a more confrontational person, I might have said something instead of just rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath. But I can imagine asking Chipotle guy how he could wait in line for free food but not line up for the biggest opportunity to use that voice he seemed to love so much.

Sure, my vote is going to be canceled out. The same roommates who waited in that burrito line with me will probably be waiting in line with me at the polls. I’m for Obama; they’re for McCain. Canceled, just like that. It would actually make some kind of sense for me and one of them just to stay behind, paint our nails and save the time and trouble of voting. But we’re all going. We’ll all be there standing in line, even without the promise of free food.

It’s not that I think my vote is going to decide the election. I guess I’m voting for the taste of it—a little taste of all those American rights and freedoms I’ve heard so much about. Together we can perhaps avoid eight years of the wrong leader. Or maybe not. But I really do care, and saying you don’t—saying you’ll take a pass on voting day—is worse than lame; it’s just plain lazy (you heard me Chipotle guy: I think you’d rather be napping than voting—way to stand up to the man).

Political issues are not abstract—they get at you on a personal level, they affect almost every arena of your life. You can think of voting as a statement: You’re saying, yes, you’ll break your routine and even wait in long, obnoxious lines to help make your country a better place. You’d do it for a burrito, so of course you’ll line up to choose the new leader of the free world. You are free to make decisions that are bigger than yourself. A new president, or, let’s say, global warming—these are challenges so huge, they make you feel tiny. You think, “Why would I turn off my light or recycle this cup when I know that guy isn’t going to do it? What’s the point?” But you are free to choose to be greater and more powerful than you feel.

You have to ask yourself: Do you really want to stand by while more people vote for American Idols than for an American president? Like the Chipotle guy waited almost an hour for a free burrito (and spent almost that long talking about not voting)? Of course, he’s free to choose not to vote. But if you don’t vote, you have absolutely no right to complain. And c’mon, we’re college students—complaining is what we do best. See you at the polls.

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