The Decision

I handed the clerk in the County Elections Office my driver’s license.  She began typing on her keyboard to ensure I was registered to vote.  Finding my name, she handed me the familiar paperwork to complete and sign so that I could receive my card that would activate the voting machine.  As I slid the paperwork back to her, she handed me my driver’s license and the activation card.  I smiled and said a quick, “Thank you.”

Early voting had only begun a week ago but the lines were already long.  I thought to myself, “This is a presidential election so there will be more interest in voting this year.”  In silence, each person stood in line and dutifully moved one step closer to the room containing the voting machines as the previous voters completed their selections and returned their cards to the clerk overseeing the process so that all rules about conversations and assistance were strictly enforced.

As I inched closer to my opportunity to exercise this important right, my mind began to reflect on what it means to be allowed to vote for our leaders.  I remember chastising my daughters when I found out they did not vote.

I reminded them that I had served 20 years in the Marine Corps just to ensure they and my grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and every future generation could exercise this important right.

It saddened me to think that when the people of Iraq finally were able to vote in a fair election, 98% of the people exercised this right despite the threat of attacks from terrorists.  In this country, where the biggest hurdle is having to show a government-approved identification (to which some think is too extreme), we celebrate when 35% of the electorate show up at the polls.  I stood in silence and just shook my head – saddened by the thought that too many of our citizens just do not appreciate the freedoms we enjoy that have been preserved through the sacrifice of our young men and women in uniform for over 200 years.

I was now the next in line to enter the room to vote.  My stomach knotted.  For the first time in my history of voting, I really did not feel like the candidates on the ballot for President were truly the best this country had to offer.

I thought about how our schools have failed our children when they actually believe getting “free stuff” is better than working hard to earn your way.

I never thought I would see the day were a candidate for President would be pushing socialism as a better choice than the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.  I thought about how our schools have failed our children when they actually believe getting “free stuff” is better than working hard to earn your way.  So free college sounds good until you find out that history teaches that when the government provides free college, they get to say who goes to college and who does not – toe the party line or you will not get this benefit even if your grades warrant this opportunity.  Free healthcare sounds good until you are in need of surgery that is not considered emergency so you must wait because of the backlog – and your doctor was not the brightest student with the best potential but his father was an important party member so he was pushed through as a favor to his father.  A living wage sounds good until you suddenly realize that the government sets wages for all occupations and working hard will not get you ahead – therefore, productivity slacks, quality slips, and eventually, shortages occur for even the most essential of staples.  The Soviet Union fell from the weight of socialism – Cuba is stuck in the 50s because of socialism – Venezuela is being torn apart because of socialism – and yet the halls of higher learning seem to ignore these facts and push the idea that “you deserve free stuff.”

And the other party has painted itself into a corner because the economy has vastly improved, unemployment is at an all-time low, foreign countries are being called to task about unfair trade agreements, and the base seems to just love this guy.  Unfortunately, that leaves them stuck with a high school bully who uses Twitter to assault anyone who does not agree with him and can’t seem to speak the truth even when it is written on the teleprompter for him.  He will do things his way whether it is appropriate or not because as a successful businessman, his team of lawyers could drag things through the courts long enough to break the opposition’s bank account, their will, or they would just die and the case would end.  He brags about appointing judges who will uphold the Constitution while he seems to trample it at every turn.

“Sir, you may go to the open machine in the corner.”  The clerk’s voice brings me back to reality.  It is now time – I must make a decision.

I slip my card into the machine, read the instructions, answer the appropriate questions, and finally, the simulated ballot appears.  The first decision is the most important and the names of the candidates for President stare at me.  I hurt in the very pit of my stomach – my hands are shaking – a tear slowly explores the wrinkles of my face – and for the first time in my life, I vote for the candidate I feel will do the least harm to our country.  As I finish my voting and walk to the exit, I think to myself, “What has happened to our country that doing the least harm is now the decision.”

Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.
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Joel Elveson

Len, I agree with you 1 million percent on all of your points. We vote for people who are supposed to represent we the people but we know that is not the case. I freely admit to not voting in the last local election as I knew from experience a Republican candidate for any office in New York City (the suburbs are different as they lean heavy to Republicans) does not have a chance. What I thought would be the outcome of this election was indeed what I expected. When it comes time to vote for President I owe it to my country to do that. Voting for a Socialist candidate is not something I would ever entertain let alone do. Voting for a Democratic candidate for President is also not something I would entertain or do. It takes a patriot like you to write an article like this. THANK YOU, LEN!

Aldo Delli Paoli

Very interesting article.
In Italy there is no vote for the President of the Republic (and it is a mistake, in my opinion). For 20 children out of 100 participating in the elections no longer has any meaning. The proposals do not convince and 40% rejects all parties and a sense of strangeness grows. The most salient fact is the coincidence between the disaffection for the parties and that for the institutions. Only volunteering, scientific research and hospitals are considered authoritative.
The electoral disengagement must be considered an attitude contrary to the social and civil role, prerogative and duty of every citizen. Furthermore, not voting means delegating your choices to others. When voting, one must put the general interest of the country first and set aside the individual interest.
All true. But if you don’t trust those who represent us, as Len wisely says, you should lean towards the minor damage. But it’s not pleasant or fair.
I think we should take a step back, have better political leaders, prepared, disinterested, honest people should not step aside.
But maybe mine is just utopia.

Larry Tyler

It is a sadness I feel too Len. I find myself retreating more into the farmlands so those that do the lest are a long way from me and can do me the lest harm

Jeff Ikler
Jeff Ikler

Len, you may be prescient, but there is still time for “developments.” (If there aren’t, maybe Larry has some room on his farm for us.) There’s a lot at stake with this election, and it’s pretty fundamental. Will Democracy survive? I have grown to feel that not everyone in our country values a Democracy. In fact, I read recently that psychologically, many people simply like to be told what to do as opposed to having the freedom to choose. I was trained as a historian, and I taught American and World history in high school for a number of years. Other nations have gradually and peacefully slipped into authoritarian rule. Could it not happen here? When I look at the cognitive dissonance that plagues many Americans right now, I’m not so sure it couldn’t.

And like you, I’m worried about the other extreme. I don’t like “free” as a method to erase the gross inequities we see in society. The problem those voices identify is right – we have evolved into a plutocratic state – but the solutions they propose come with their own set of problems. The middle course is there, but it’s a muted voice.

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