Vote for the one who lies the least


She rinsed the cof­fee mug and put it into the drain­ing rack. She reached down into the sink to get the other one, search­ing be­neath the soapy wa­ter into all four corners. She couldn’t find it. Scrap­ing the bot­tom of the bar­rel, she thought. She looked over at the rack where the two mugs sat side-by-side, drip­ping dry.

My dear, my mind is start­ing to go. Only two mugs of break­fast cof­fee and even then I lose count.

When the house was full of kids, she’d had no trou­ble keep­ing track of a half-dozen mugs; some with cof­fee, oth­ers with tea, some with milk, some sugar, some both, some none. With the kids gone, and just the two of them left, you’d think it would be eas­ier to keep track. It’s not old age, she thought, it’s this elec­tion that’s got me drove. I can’t con­cen­trate. She sighed, wrung out the dish­cloth and hung it to dry. Putting one hand on ei­ther side of the sink, she leaned to­ward the win­dow and gazed out over the cove. Spring was just around the cor­ner. There had been a cou­ple of those tempt­ing shirt­sleeve days with the sun’s warmth on your cheek, the kind of days that touched your el­bow and helped you past the in­evitable snow flur­ries and icy winds still to come. The last of the snow had dis­ap­peared, even in those shady spots in the lun where the cliff ’s base joined the top of the beach.

Across the way, Maisie had her laun­dry on the line al­ready. Maisie was a good worker, kept a clean house, was efficient and or­ga­nized. She sized up a sit­u­a­tion quickly and made a de­ci­sion, and once made up, her mind was dif­fi­cult to change.

They had talked about the elec­tion, she and Maisie. It had been a short con­ver­sa­tion.

“ Not go­ing to vote” said Maisie. “ They’re all crooks.”

When she heard Maisie say that, she re­mem­bered a bumper sticker she had seen once that pro­claimed in bold cap­i­tal let­ters: “DON’T VOTE. IT ONLY EN­COUR­AGES THEM.”

Her fa­ther has been very clear on the mat­ter. You must vote. Peo­ple fought and died to guar­an­tee your right to vote. It’s a sin not to.

Her fa­ther had been gone al­most three years now, but right to the end he had re­mained true to his word. They had a job to get him up over the steps and into the church hall for the last elec­tion, but he in­sisted on mark­ing his X. And she would too, no mat­ter how fool­ish Maisie found it.

Her fa­ther’s words were re­in­forced by the pic­tures on the tele­vi­sion screen that had for the space of weeks in late win­ter hyp­no­tized her in the day and in­fil­trated her dreams at night. The peo­ple in North Africa and the Mid­dle East wanted democ­racy. They wanted the vote.

There were tens of thou­sands of them. En­cour­aged by the knowl­edge that sim­i­lar demon­stra­tions seek­ing the same goal were tak­ing place in nearby coun­tries, un­armed peo­ple faced the troops of dic­ta­tors with courage, and many of them died. And were still dy­ing.

Her fa­ther was right. She would vote. For him, and to hon­our the non-vi­o­lent young peo­ple who day af­ter day with their ba­bies in their arms thronged Tahrir Square in Cairo armed with noth­ing but their voices. The thing about the demon­stra­tors in Egypt that touched her the most was what they did when they fi­nally suc­ceeded in send­ing Hosni Mubarak pack­ing.

Af­ter cel­e­brat­ing late into the night, hug­ging, kiss­ing, laugh­ing, cry­ing, and dancing with joy, they went home to rest. The next morn­ing many of them were back, sweep­ing up the mess that weeks of demon­stra­tions had left and paint­ing dam­aged rail­ings and lamp posts.

A mem­ory of the scene brought a lump to her throat. A young woman on her knees, a paint­brush in her hand, re­ply­ing to a re­porter’s ques­tion. “It is our coun­try now,” she said, “ we must take care of it.”

And we must take care of our coun­try, too, she thought. No mat­ter how hard they make it, and they of­ten do, we must pay at­ten­tion to what the politi­cians are say­ing and try to de­cide which among them de­serves our sup­port. Even in the worst case, when none of them truly ap­peals, try to choose the least bad.

Vote for the one who lies the least. If ev­ery­one did it, over time the po­lit­i­cal arena would be­come first, less dis­hon­est, then grad­u­ally more hon­est. We can move things in the right direc­tion, she thought.

She picked up the dish towel and dried first one, then the other of the two cof­fee mugs. She opened the cup­board door and placed them on the shelf. As she closed the door, she caught a glimpse of her own face in the mir­ror. She was smil­ing.

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