Ask Auntie Establishment

Dear Auntie Establishment,

How can we make sure our votes are counted in the general election? I've signed petitions and sent emails about black box voting, but what if nothing is done before the election?

-Caucused in Colorado

Dear Auntie,

My husband insists that our votes won't count because of the electoral college and the overwhelming amount of people "sheeple" in our state who support Bush. Should we stay home on election day due to the electoral votes that are almost sure to go to Bush in Georgia?

-Southern Skeptic

Dearest Doubtful Dears:
Given Florida, electronic voting, and the electoral college, the only way to make sure your vote counts is to vote for Bush, whose votes never seem to get lost. But putting aside Auntie's chronic cynicism a la mode, the best possible outcome is there will be such a landslide for regime change that a tampering of votes just won't be possible.

Your vote isn't guaranteed to matter, but it certainly shouldn't stop you from voting. And don't just vote, make sure everyone within spitting distance of you votes too. I bet, Ms. Skeptical, that even in your solidly Republican state of Georgia, there are enough unregistered voters who, if registered, could change the state. There have been a number of countries -- the newly independent East Timor, for example, or post-Sandinista and post-contra Nicaragua -- where even with some vote-tampering, the will of the people was obvious.

Of course we should hold Diebold and other electronic voting manufacturers accountable by pushing for electronic receipts, independent audits and the rest. But should we focus on it so much that we forget about winning the election? Auntie shakes her head a decisive "no." Excuse Auntie for channeling your high school civics teacher here, but the one way to make sure your vote doesn't count is not to vote.

Dear Auntie,

I work in a place that is very diverse racially, culturally and age-wise. Should be great, right? Wrong. No one talks to each other, everyone (including me) seems terrified of saying the wrong thing, and no one wants to be cliquish so we all pretty much keep to ourselves. It's ghastly.

Miserable in My Cubicle

Dear Miserable One:
It sounds like you and your colleagues are suffering from a bad case of faux-pas phobia. Faux-pas phobia is an airborne disease, carried by general societal racism and fed by mass media, that makes people so worried about saying the wrong thing, or, god forbid, making a mistake that they don't say anything. This kind of nonsense has Auntie rolling her eyes so far back in her head she can see her molars.

Some of the most damaging racism and prejudice is institutional, wielded by people in power against those who don't have any. But a group of workmates, all in generally equal positions, can harm each other most by not talking to each other. Auntie is stepping gracefully off her soapbox now, but please -- say something dumb, spill coffee on your neighbor, start a conversation about some forbidden topic -- like the coming presidential election -- and start breathing a little easier.

Dear Auntie,

I always hated politics because I never believed in any of the people running the government. Now faced with the terror that the Bush regime has thrown in America's face, while our very rights are being taken, I feel the need to share my newfound knowledge with all my friends and family. What books should I read that could share the truth with lots of big names in quotes? (My dad is a veteran Republican English teacher). Can you give me a list of the best stuff out there for someone starting out in her goal for peace and "freedom from mental slavery"?

-Ready for Educational Ammo

Dear Ammo-Ready:
Although Auntie looks stunning in a tweed skirt, bun and spectacles, for a comprehensive progressive reading list, you're better off with a real librarian or the web equivalent. You'll find an impressively exhaustive progressive reading list at Civic If you read all the books listed there you will be thoroughly edumacated, and enjoyably exhausted.

A little tip to get you started. You can't go wrong with "A People's History of the United States," by Howard Zinn; and "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong," by James Loewen.

Next week: How do I talk to my inquisitive 8-year-old about homelessness, politics, and the war in Iraq?

Tearing your hair out about a political dilemma? Write to your Auntie and ask for help: Missed last week's Auntie ? Find her columns in the archives.

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