Back in July I spent some time in my home town, Philadelphia, with David, one of my two brothers. David lives in a house in the middle of a park in South Philly. He works for the city, and helps maintain the park, which he considers his backyard. We sat on a bench outside his living room door, catching up and bemoaning the state of the States.
We talked a lot about the election. We wondered how Obama could lose, considering there are so many more people who depend on federal services than those who don’t, and so many more Democrats than Republicans. Isn’t that why the Republicans have to suppress voting among Blacks, Latinos, the poor, and seniors? Voter fraud, they claim, but we know differently.
The problem, says my brother, is the idiots who don’t bother to vote.
“People should be required by law to vote,” I said. “And to pay a big fine if they don’t. They should be made to do public service work, or better yet, put in stocks in front of the neighborhood supermarket. Bring back public humiliation.”
“Voters should have their fingers dyed, like they do in Iraq, so everybody knows who voted,” he said, warming up to the topic, “and people with dye should be allowed to point fingers at the non-voters and hiss, ‘tsss for shame.'”
“That might be fun,” I said, imagining non-voters chased by a hissing mob right out of the 1958 movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Except the good guys would be chasing the bad guys.
“And when the voters are leaving the polls, they should be issued a vaudeville cane to smack people with.”
“That’s a little drastic. What’s a vaudeville cane, anyway?”
“It’s a bamboo thing. Like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby carried on stage when they danced. You know, hat in one hand, cane in the other?”
David explained that lilylivered non-voters could run if chased by a finger-pointing, hissing mob— they wouldn’t be required to stand and be beaten. “Or they could always stay home, but everyone would know, and ostracize them.”
Clearly, there are aspects of my brother’s idea that need work, and I’m still not convinced that the cane is a good idea. But I like the finger dye. And the Republicans wouldn’t have to worry about voter fraud anymore. The ink can be detected until new cells grow in.
I don’t know. Since some people still can’t decide which candidate is better, and others aren’t informed enough to care, maybe we need to establish an intelligence test as a criterion for voting. We always want what we can’t have.