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Patriotic duty complete with one phone call

I am proud to say that I did my patriotic duty Wednesday night.

With Election Day more than 144 days away, I didn’t cast my vote.

I didn’t enlist in the military. They wouldn’t take me anyway. I am too old, too flabby.

I didn’t even put out my American flag, even though today is Flag Day and Independence Day is just around the corner.

All I did was answer the telephone and answer a few questions.

I have always wondered who independent polling companies contact to answer their questions about the economy, the president and other questions of national importance. Wednesday night they called at least one house in Natchez.

It took a little more than 10 minutes to answer the man’s series of questions, but for that 10 minutes I felt more empowered than any of my last few trips to the ballot box.

My high school American  History teacher Mrs. Whitmore would wince if she knew that I felt my answers to a few questions had a greater chance of influencing what happens on Capitol Hill than voting ever will.

After all, isn’t our democracy built on the idea that power rests in the hands of the people? The people elect the leaders to represent them in Washington, D.C. When a leader strays from his constituent’s views, he is voted out and a new leader is elected to replace him.

That may be a simplified version of the civics lessons I learned from Mrs. Whitmore, and one that seems antiquated in these days of the Internet and instant surveys. The quaint days when Mr. Smith went to Washington are now long gone. Big money lobbyists and major corporations seem to have the attention of our lawmakers.

Voters seem to be nothing more than labels living in states painted either red or blue with no shades in between.

Presidential candidates focus their attention on two or three states every four year, while voters in the other 47 states are shoved to the margins.

It is a cynical view of our country, to be sure.

There seems to be one sure way the average person can get the attention of the president and other leaders on Capitol Hill — the opinion poll. It seems as if every leader from Obama on down has their ears to the latest pollster and polling data.

That is why I had no problem standing in my kitchen answering questions. If my vote is not going to catch the president’s attention maybe my opinion will.

The questions ranged from how the job performance of the president and congress to the biggest issues in the news like immigration and the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance of cellphone and Internet data.

The Supreme Court, the Internal Revenue Service and Guantanamo were also discussed.

So was what I eat for breakfast, what I take with my coffee and how much I use my computer for watching movies and television shows.

I don’t really care that president or members of congress know that I care about such things. But I do want them to know that I care how they are leading (or not leading) our country.

And if I can’t get that across to them at the ballot box, I will try to get their attention in another polling place — my  kitchen.

It’s my patriotic duty.


Ben Hillyer is design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.