Why I write.
For me, to write is an act of faith: in myself and in you. To write, I must believe that what I write is worthy of your attention. To write, I must believe that your reading and responding to what I write is worthy of my attention.
When I write, I try to write the best I can about what matters most to me. I have to believe that what matters most to me might also have meaning for you. It isn’t easy to write well, to be honest, to do careful, painstaking research, to think before writing—to think critically of myself and of my opinions as well as of the world and its affairs. For me, writing requires an act of faith that transcends my vanity, my pride, my ego, my desire for praise and recognition, my ambitions. Writing, for me, is simply too hard to sustain with only those motives. I must believe that my writing has value beyond myself, that it has value because of you. Every time I write I have to renew this act of faith. It doesn’t last.
Sometimes I write—without faith or hope—because I cannot find any other way to exist. The subjects themselves command the writing—Oscar Romero, Primo Levi, Langston Hughes, Juana Inés de la Cruz— I have to believe that their stories have importance for us all, that their stories help us to understand our selves, to understand what it means to be a human being in our world.
Often, my writing becomes an existential act in a world of absurdist theater—at least Don Quixote saw the windmills he mistook as knights errant.
Why I vote.
My godson Daniel, who lives and works outside of the U.S., posted a notice on FB that discussed why it is often ‘statistically meaningless’ to vote in the U.S. presidential election because of our Electoral College system. If you are voting for Hillary Clinton in the state of Illinois—usually a blue state— your vote cannot add to her electoral delegate count because that number is pre-determined by the number of U.S. senators ( 2 ) and the number of U.S. representative districts ( 18 ). ( The same fact would be true for a person in a red state who voted for Trump. )
The number of U.S. representative districts is determined by the population of the state with each state guaranteed to have at least one representative district regardless of population.
Thus, Wyoming with a population of around 600,000 receives 3 electors in the Electoral College. Nor does your vote add to Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election because the popular vote totals, as such, do not determine who wins the election.
Four times in the history of our presidential elections the person ‘elected’ president did not win the popular vote.
Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the presidency to George Bush. And, one time in our history, the person who won neither the popular vote nor the Electoral College vote—John Quincy Adams—was ‘elected’ president by a vote of the House of Representatives. Aside: John Quincy Adams was a great president.
Even though our system of electing our president is not as straightforward and as transparent as it might be and even though it is not always clear how my vote counts, I insisted that my godson vote anyway. He said he would.
My friend and mentor Daniel Berrigan, who died this past April, refused to vote. He judged both of our political parties to be hostage to bankrupt ideas and policies. Daniel Berrigan worked for a ‘more perfect union’ and a more just America in many effective ways but voting was not one of them. I was never able to persuade him that voting mattered.
I don’t understand mathematics or statistics well enough to offer you any reasons to vote or not to vote. And, philosophically, democracy is a most problematic enterprise.
In the end, I can only say that for me voting is an act of faith. For me, my art of being a writer is conjoined with my art of being a citizen. Both arts are rooted in my faith in the human experiment, and in the experiment we call ‘America.’ Voting expresses my faith in the future of our nation and in the value of the individual person participating in our civil society. This isn’t an argument: it is an ethic and an aesthetic of how I would like things to be. It is my act of faith in you and in me.
Read. Think. Vote.
WCTimes : 02 November 2016
Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago, president of Chicago Network and playwright emeritus at Victory Gardens Theater.