It's election season. Time to commence with the public
service announcements encouraging everybody to vote because
casting a ballot is the responsibility of each and every
citizen, no matter how informed or intelligent or inebriated.
Well, I'm not so sure I agree.
A few weeks ago I was with friends in a mountain town,
soaking in the local color, when a woman in full stars and
stripes regalia approached us.
Her: Are you registered voters in the state of Colorado?
Would you like to sign a petition to give local communities
more autonomy? She shows us a stack of petition sheets full
Me: More autonomy in what?
Her: Oh, it's all written right here (pointing to her
Me: Do people actually sign this petition just because you
say that it will "give communities more autonomy"?
Her (cheerfully): Why yes, they certainly do.
Meanwhile, my friend begins reading the petition. Stars and
Stripes Woman immediately yanks it away.
Her: I'm going to talk to those people over there. I don't
like your attitude. Good-bye.
So apparently there are people - lots of them, given the
stack of signatures I saw - who sign petitions on the street
simply because they are told that they will "give communities
more autonomy," without knowing how or what kind of autonomy
or anything about what they are advocating. For all they
know, their communities may be petitioning to withdraw from
the state or secede from the union.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that those people,
whoever they are, should not be allowed to vote. In fact, I
think this should be a test. We need to stand on street
corners asking people if they will sign a petition to "give
communities more autonomy." If anyone signs it without
question, their voter registration should be immediately
revoked. And they should not be readmitted to the polls until
they have taken a course on American History, and written a
five-page essay on "Why I have no business voting if I have
no idea what the heck I am voting for."
Similar scenarios are playing out on a national level. For
instance, I see college students - and others who should be
old enough to know better - suddenly enamored of this brand
new, completely untried idea called "socialism." Because, you
know, free stuff - free college, free healthcare. Why didn't
we think of this before?
It turns out that we have an unlimited, heretofore
undiscovered and untapped source of money in the coffers of
certain individuals known as "rich people." Thanks to them
and their largess, we can eradicate poverty while enjoying
lots and lots of free stuff. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty. Those who study history - and current world events -
know exactly what happens when we run out of "other people's
money." And it isn't pretty.
Worse yet, a government powerful enough to give you
everything you want can also take everything away. And that
includes not just your money but your liberty - particularly
your religious liberty.
The current socialism "fad" is but one example of the damage
voters can do when they are ill-informed about the
consequences of their electoral choices. Voters on the left
and the right seem to have forgotten - or never learned - why
the United States was founded in the first place, the rights
it was founded to protect, the proper role of government, and
what freedom really is. We threaten our future by making
ill-informed voting decisions based on our own interests (or
ignorance) instead of respect for the God-given rights of
every human person - rights this nation was founded to
As I write this, religious colleges in California are
fighting legislation that would subject them to
"anti-discrimination" laws and lawsuits over traditional
Christian morality - threatening their existence as religious
institutions. Other battles are emerging daily. And, of
course, for the past 40 plus years the federal government has
forbidden states from protecting their most defenseless
citizens - the unborn. The aged, the infirm are likewise
threatened by impending euthanasia legislation, wherein they
fear that the "right to die" will quickly become the "duty to
The list goes on and on.
As government grows bigger, the rights of the individual grow
I am definitely not asking you to stay at home this election.
I'm not telling you for whom to vote. I am asking you to
please, for the love of God and everybody else, educate
yourself about what is at stake. Study American history with
your family, especially the story of our founding. Study
world history - especially recent history - and see how
various systems of government have worked out in other
countries. Read and share the "Voter's Guide for Serious
Catholics" at www.catholic.com. Pray for guidance. And then
Your right to vote is a privilege and a precious gift. Use it
Bonacci is a syndicated columnist based in Denver and author
of We're on a Mission from God and Real Love.