Parallels between emptying the trash and voting

We have a slide-out garbage bin under our kitchen sink. The bin’s 13-gallon plastic liners don’t take long to fill even with recycling bags scattered throughout the house.

The garbage bin is located in the busiest room in the house, so it collects the most garbage. And without fail, it seems as if every time I slide it out to load something in, it’s overflowing. Sometimes, it’s even overflowing in a way that makes me laugh out loud; there’s no way the person before me could have walked away in good conscience while leaving behind a propped-open garbage lid overflowing with banana peels or empty milk cartons.

The logical thing, when faced with an overflowing garbage bin, is to address the issue: Pull the bag out of the bin, walk about 50 feet (granted, more than half of it outdoors) to the city-provided super-jumbo garbage bin in the backyard, and then load an empty liner in the kitchen bin so the next person isn’t inconvenienced.

The whole process takes less than five minutes. Maybe even less than four minutes. It’s important, it’s the responsible thing to do, and it’s really not that difficult.

Everyone in our house knows it’s important, and everyone knows it needs to be done. But everyone seems to hope that someone else will step up because that’s just the way most of us are. I understand that thought process, because that’s exactly what goes through my mind, too.

I bring this up not because my garbage situation is all that fascinating, but because as we enter another political season, there are some parallels here.

Democracy and voting in this country are no longer the shiny new pennies they must have been 200-plus years ago. With every passing election, fewer of us as a percentage of the voting population take the time to vote. Less than half of us decide most of the elections these days. Often, 10 or 20 percent of us make the call. It takes too much time to do the right thing, so too many of us do nothing at all.

Something that should have changed this trend and sparked interest in elections and candidates is the internet — in a matter of minutes, anyone anywhere can find out everything about any candidate, any ballot issue, any controversy. We can watch words spill out of the candidates’ own mouths on YouTube, on their own sites, on news sites, on our phones. We can assess their positions, evaluate their intellect, even spar with them online if we (and they) so choose.

But like hauling out the garbage, we generally choose to let someone else do the work. And many of us seem to think we’re getting away with something when we’re too busy to spend a few minutes doing what needs to be done.

I keep telling myself that one day when I find the garbage bin overflowing, I’m going to set my refuse pile on top of the cover or next to the bin just so that someone else will have to complete the task. But as I stand there contemplating my prospective crime, I just can’t do it. After all, if garbage heaps up and I dodge responsibility, I’m trashing my own home, too.

So I dispose of the garbage, and my four or five minutes right along with it. Leaving the chore for someone else just isn’t the right thing to do.


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