Election Day is upon us, my friends! After months of campaigning, debating, stumping, polling, hand-shaking, baby-kissing, and just about every other politically-related gerund you can think of, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are about to find out who will be sitting in the Oval Office come next January.
But it’s not quite over yet. In fact, the most important part has just begun: you know, actually voting. You’d think that in the 24 centuries since the Greeks invented democracy we’d have gotten this whole casting-your-ballot thing down to a science. Not so. Here, near Hollywood.com’s office in New York City, people are waiting 60-90 minutes to vote in relatively modest lines. But in my home state of Florida some people have had to wait six to nine hours, a queuing-up experience that only Comic-Con geeks, Twihards, and iPhone-covetous Apple cultists can appreciate. Speaking for myself, as a worshipper of all things Star Wars, I have also endured my share of marathon-caliber line waiting. In particular I remember the three-hour wait for my first screening of Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace on a bright, sunny day that Star Wars fans will long remember: May 19, 1999. Here are five things I learned from that experience that voters waiting in line right now would do well to remember.
1. Use your time in line to brush up on all the important policy issues at stake.
Be productive while waiting in line! Surely you already know what presidential candidate you’re voting for, along with your various Senate and House contenders, so brush up on all those little amendments that are attached to your ballot. You know, the stuff about school zoning issues and five-cent tax increases. I made the mistake of focusing on all the big stuff, too, while brushing up on my Star Wars lore when waiting in line for Phantom Menace: memorizing all the contenders for Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, familiarizing myself with the members of the Jedi Council, when I really should have been brushing up on the taxation of Outer Rim trade routes and the need to repeal crippling regulations on interstellar corporations (the Trade Federation is a person too!), and the parliamentary procedure of the Galactic Senate. Ah, and the really sneaky thing is the way the people who make the ballots sometimes stick a bombshell issue into all that Legalese, like you’re not going to notice. Maybe there’ll suddenly be a referendum on gay marriage or reproductive rights that’ll affect countless people’s lives. Like how all of a sudden slavery and its abolition became a huge theme in Phantom Menace, sandwiched between eye-glazing monologues about the legality of blockades and no-confidence votes. Stay alert, voters, and be prepared!
2. Reminisce about the good old times.
Star Wars fans like to remember the halcyon days when Han Solo still shot Greedo first, before the Dark Times. Before the Special Editions. That's just like how supporters of the president prefer to recall the Barack Obama of the “Yes We Can!” speech at the Democratic Convention four years ago instead of the Obama who spent most of his time on camera during the first presidential debate this year looking down and studying the intricate woodwork of his podium. When it comes to Star Wars, 1977 beats 1997 anytime, and for Obama, 2008 trumps 2012. The key is to cling to hope. Sure, those of us standing in line before The Phantom Menace in ’99 had been dejected by the Special Editions, but we had "a new hope" that what we were about to see would wipe all that disillusionment away...
3. Remember that it’s all filtered through “a certain point of view.”
Maybe you’ll find yourself disappointed after you vote tonight, like so many of my fellow Star Wars fans in line felt after Phantom Menace. But focus on the positive! Yeah, you could look at the still-weak jobs numbers and despair, or you could focus on all that President Obama has done: saving the auto industry, curtailing predatory lending and regulating credit card companies, passing the most comprehensive piece of healthcare legislation in fifty years, killing Osama Bin Laden for God’s sake! Or if you insisted on voting for Romney but were disappointed by his “47%” comments and lack of a coherent tax plan, you could still take comfort in how well he organized the 2002 Winter Olympics. Maybe, with Phantom Menace, you were horrified by the inordinate amount of screen time given to a certain Gungan, the green screensaver-looking landscapes of Naboo, the way that “Wizard!” was supposed to be an exclamation of joy. But we still got a killer podrace and a lightsaber battle that may be the best of the series. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker, your point-of-view can change everything.
Now, admittedly, it also helps if, like me, you were 13 when Phantom Menace came out. But oddly enough, a 13-year-old mindset may be the best way to view politics as well. It’s worked for Paul Ryan, anyway. Look how well he’s reconciled the completely incongruous output of Ayn Rand and Rage Against the Machine.
4. Dressing up can be fun, but within reason.
I’m sure you’ll see a lot of Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan pins stuck to the chests of voters in line today. Maybe even an elephant or donkey hat or two. Well, when Star Wars fans line up, you’re bound to see a lot of stormtrooper armor, maybe a Slave Leia, and plenty of drawn, plastic lightsabers. As long as the Star Wars fans don’t actually use their plastic lightsabers to menace passerby, and the political fanatics don’t come out wearing masks of Obama looking like Heath Ledger’s Joker or “Romney Thinks You’re a Moocher” shirts, maybe we can keep it civil. Hopefully we won’t ever get to the point where we’ll need to pass out blue lightsabers to Democrats and red ones to Republicans to settle their differences.
5. Remember that you’ll get a do-over in just a few short years.
If you didn’t like Episode I, you knew you’d get another installment in three short years. As disappointed as people were with the prequels, look how excited everybody got with the announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII for 2015 last week. And if you don’t like the outcome tonight, you’ll get a do-over in four years. I’m just thankful we’ll get to see Episode VII a whole year before the round-the-clock madness that is another presidential election. Can we all at least agree on that?
[Photo Credit: Carrie Devorah/WENN]