Letter From Langdon: A Vote in the Wall
Why risk catching the "flu" of political contention in your town? Richard Oswald has a list of reasons, written in stone.
Super Tuesday (2/5/08)
in Rock Port, Missouri
Photo: Richard Oswald
Here around Langdon, about the only thing deeper than our political discussions is the forecast for snow”¦”¦9 inches by morning. Luckily the storm shouldn’t hit soon enough to alter voting patterns over the hill in Rock Port, where all good north Langdonites go to cast their ballots.
Back in the old days we voted closer to home, at the south end of Main Street, in Rock Port City Hall. But these days everyone in this part of the county goes up to the north end of the street to the community room in Bank Midwest.
There are three places where you always see people you may not see otherwise: at the school, at church, and at the polls. Today I ran into Lillian. She’s moving to Denver to be nearer her family. I got a hello and a good Lutheran wave off to several other people I know. Then I saw an old buddy from my school board days. I had to give Steve a hard time, because he likes a different political party. You need to be careful what you say in the polling place though. The ladies who work there don’t like for us to talk politics.
Not many people around here like politics. Political discussion is kind of like the flu, the longer you have it the worse it gets. Most people just smile grimly and vote. Some don’t even bother to smile. After it’s over, the most prudent ones put it behind them until flu season rolls around again. That doesn’t mean that we don’t take it seriously. When a community’s population is as small as ours is, the thing we fear most is anything that makes us lose a friend or neighbor. The occasional passing is inevitable, but wars and recessions are dreaded events because they mean someone is leaving town.
Back down at the south end of Main Street is the Memorial Building. It was built after World War I to commemorate the boys from Atchison County who lost their lives. Ralph Greer was the first. A lot of people in the county have been trying to renovate the Memorial Building, and besides working on the building, they’ve put in a war memorial for all the locals who’ve served our nation in all its wars. For me, it’s striking to see those names etched in stone. Some came home and are still here, and some were not as lucky. The way I see it, it’s not a memorial to war, it’s a memorial for peace.
I guess that sometimes you have to fight no matter what the cost.
That just seems to make the election even more important. When I was younger, I felt that my vote didn’t matter. Now I know that was just an excuse for not standing up for my beliefs, or maybe for not having any. These days when I look at all those names etched into stone for our war memorial, I realize how cheap I’ve been getting off. Our votes are the mortar that holds those named stones in place. If we didn’t take an interest in our nation and its politics, it could fall apart, and all those names would just be so much broken rubble. Voting seems a small price to pay when the wall is built from my neighbors lives.
I may not have been crazy about every one of the choices on my ballot today, but by taking the time and thought it took to mark it, I figure I put a little more cement in the wall.