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2000-11-07 - 15:15:53

Election Day

I walked downtown today, a pleasantly cool November morning under a gray sky in a small New Jersey suburb. The leaves crunched beneath my feet as on any other autumn day; there are still too many in the trees to make raking those already on the ground a futile effort.

I left my house, took the steps down to the sidewalk, and turned up the street towards town. I passed other 200-year-old houses on my street and noticed the American flag flying from the mast at the post office.

Cars went by on the streets without any indication this was anything other than a normal day. No Yankees or Mets flags flying from antennae, as there were a few weeks ago. No wreaths and bows tied to radiator grills yet; that's still a few weeks away. No, there was nothing that stood out to indicate today is Election Day.

I reached the firehouse and noticed that the signs that say, "Vote Here Today," were also decorated with an American flag. Don't think that's been there before. This was maybe my fourth or fifth live election; since I'd turned 18 in 1994, I voted by absentee ballot while in college. This time, I joined the throngs in standing behind that curtain, looking up at the names of Al Gore, George W. Bush and the others running for national and local office. And I was happy to contribute.

It's a shame Election Day isn't more of a national holiday. Banks and businesses would close for Veterans' Day, but that falls on a Saturday this year. I don't know if they'll make up for it on Monday or not. But Election Day, I think, should be treated the same way. We recognize Columbus' washing up on the islands of the Caribbean; honor the memories of our founding fathers and Martin Luther King; give our workers an extra day to rest on Labor Day; and honor our veterans with both Memorial and Veterans' days. And of course there's the anniversary of our country's birth, celebrated every July 4th or thereabouts.

But that's all celebrating the past -- which is important, lest we forget. But we don't recognize the present, and, in fact, the future. Election Day should be a holiday, allowing adults to vote -- taking away any excuses not to -- and showing the children just how important the priviledge of democracy is by giving them the day off from school. It wouldn't be a day off for them, but one for their teachers, who will go out and cast their votes.

After all, it is what our founding fathers and veterans fought for.

The walk home was more of the same, nothing out of the ordinary. Stay-at-home moms drove their SUVs to the post office and supermarket, retirees mailed their letters and picked up their prescriptions at the Family Pharmacy, and I crunched on through the leaves back home.

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