Yesterday was the fateful 2022 Midterm election in the United States.
Of course, if you've been watching the news, it is all far from over. Republicans have apparently taken back the House of Representatives, but the Senate is still up in the air.
Most likely, it's all going to come down to Georgia in a December run-off.
Our country is in perhaps one of its most divisive periods. It has become common for people to reference the American Civil War in comparison, and people often wonder aloud if another one might be brewing around the corner.
Indeed, there are some who seem to want a civil war. Politically-motivated violence is on the rise, coming from both sides. The problem is exacerbated by social media echo chambers that both amplify hateful voices beyond their numbers and isolate people from being exposed to other views, due to an algorithm that is designed to show you exactly what you want to hear.
Not only that, but the distance and anonymity of internet engagement gives bravery to people who are otherwise cowards, and many make zealous use of their artificial courage. Because after all, it feels good to be brave, doesn't it?
But what happens when push comes to shove? When you actually stand face to face with someone you strongly disagree with and have to stand accountable for your words and actions?
As a life-long student of the Civil War, I can say with confidence that that is something we definitely don't want to happen again. The sheer horror of something like that happening, in our times, is unimaginable.
Just look at Ukraine if you want a glimpse.
And as a simple observer of our times, I say that the looting, riots and unrest of 2020 and before should also be but a small taste of what could happen.
Imagine - a war not between two professional armies, but simply small, but widespread, bands of various, multiple participating groups instigating terror, bloodshed and mayhem across the nation.
This seems a not too far-fetched future to me, and more realistic than professional army versus professional army.
Also, potentially, a lot more terrifying.
So why am I bringing this up? Because elections are battles without bullets. They are wars of words, not weapons. They give us the opportunity to duke things out, but without all of the terrible bloodshed.
Rarely in American history have we ever had an entirely peaceful time. Democracy is chaotic. It's something that we, as Americans, have allowed to help us grow thicker skin and a spirit of tolerance towards each other - so that we can simply co-exist without having to kill each other's families and friends.
At the bedrock of all of this has been the principle of basic rights that we all share and respect, regardless of opinion. These rights are enshrined in our Bill of Rights. Our rights to free speech and so forth.
We live in a time where free speech is at the center of our public debate, along with numerous other incredibly divisive issues. Which, I should add, are being used to balkanize us against each other by self-interested politicians.
Don't fall for it.
Passions may run high - but simply vote. Because when that Pandora's box of violence gets opened, it's very hard to close it again.
This election cycle, in my local election, I didn't particularly like the candidates that were chosen in my primary. No real contest in my state. I pondered whether or not I should go vote at all? I knew they were going to win anyway.
But I make a point to go vote regardless, based on the principle of honoring my ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. Those guys put their lives on the line so that their descendants could have a voice. Dare I dishonor them?
So I went and voted. I chose some Libertarian candidates as protest votes for the ones I didn't want to hold my nose for. And yes, the ones I didn't want to vote for won anyway. And who knows, maybe they'll do a good job, more or less. I hope they do. But at least I didn't have to hold my nose for them and above all - at least I voted.
Now if you didn't vote - I don't want to shame you, nor am I trying to. It's your right not to vote, too.
But I do encourage you to keep yourself educated and be engaged in the process. Because being engaged in the process helps nurture faith in the process. We become invested in it and care for it. We become part of it, and it becomes part of us.
And it sure is a lot better than the alternative.