Night arrives suddenly these days — the autumnal shock of daylight savings time.
I am also feeling shocked by the outcome of our recent national mid-term elections.
According to US News & World Report, only 36.6 percent of eligible voters showed up to cast our ballots. And only 13 percent of eligible voters under age 30 participated in this last election.
How do we educate and inspire our next generation of adults to do something as simple — yet profound — as vote?
The Center for Voting and Democracy’s web site says that countries such as Australia, Chile and Belgium, where voting is mandatory, experience almost 90% participation, while other countries — including Austria, Sweden, and Italy — have turnout rates near 80%.
In a presidential election year, our voter turnout rate rises to around 60%.
Food for thought and then perhaps some action…
I wrote the song in the player at the top of this post when I was in a rock band — Cue — with four other hard-working musical souls.
It reminds me of autumn — our shorter days and longer nights — as well as the billions of leaves which are letting go and falling to the earth… to decompose and then — we hope, we trust, we pray — give birth to new seedlings in the spring.
One of my bandmates, Alan Najarian, took my a cappella, four-track recording and added a bunch of great music to it — drums and keyboards and church bells and other atmospheric sounds.
I was inspired by the story of 80-year-old Giles Corey, an early emigrant from England who was crushed to death in 1692 as a result of accusations during the Salem witch trials.
He chose not to stand trial, which — according to Douglas Linder’s account on the University of Missouri-Kansas City web site — meant that his farm would be less likely to become the property of the state and his children might inherit it.
However, “the penalty for refusing to stand trial for death was pressing under heavy stones. It was a punishment never before seen in the colony of Massachusetts. On Monday, September 19, Corey was stripped naked, a board placed upon his chest, and then — while his neighbors watched — heavy stones and rocks were piled on the board. Corey pleaded to have more weight added, so that his death might come quickly.”
Deep sigh of sadness…and amazement.
How many of us would be so brave — and strategic — under similar circumstances?
Linder continues, “Corey is often seen as a martyr who gave back fortitude and courage rather than spite…His very public death may well have played (a part) in building public opposition to the witchcraft trials.”
And yet we know that this pattern of accusation and persecution and brutal punishment continues to thrive in human communities all over this planet.
And a damaging spirit of “us versus them” seems to have hijacked much of our current political process — which certainly may be affecting our voter participation rates here in the US.
Eventually the Salem witch trials wound down.
“A period of atonement began in the colony following the release of the surviving accused witches. Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public confession of guilt and an apology. Several jurors came forward to say that they were ‘sadly deluded and mistaken” in their judgments.'”
“Governor Phips blamed the entire affair on Chief Justice William Stoughton, who refused to apologize or explain himself. He criticized Phips for interfering just when he was about to ‘clear the land’ of witches. Stoughton became the next governor of Massachusetts.”
“The Salem witches disappeared, but witchhunting in America did not,” concludes Linder.
“Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes. (The Salem witch trials) warn us to think hard about how to best safeguard and improve our system of justice.”
And participatory democracy…