“Either you vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of the vote of some diehards.” —David Foster Wallace
There is an enchanting quality and a paradox in the land of our region – a quality given to both those who rest their eyes and feet on the sand. Approaching Palm Springs on Highway 111, the Chino Cone spreads out like a colossal welcome mat, heralding a sense of arrival beneath the peaceful firmament of the blue desert.
I fell in love with hiking in Palm Springs, and carving myriad trails through serene yet spectacular natural landscapes has become an obsession. It was more nuanced than that, of course. But being part of nature has become a constraint.
Nowhere else in this country, or continent, can you find such a dramatic disparity in ecosystems, from the desert floor to the alpine peak. You can feel the presence of bighorn sheep in these mountains that tower to the west and all around you. Mount San Jacinto enters my vision like a magnetic force. The fragrant smell of the desert and the escarpment dominating the senses insulates a peaceful consciousness. The shadow of the mountain is heading towards me like the distant past.
Art terms with precise and particular definitions in specialized fields sometimes take on different and unpredictable meanings. Force majeure is the occurrence of an event beyond the control of a party that reasonably prevents the performance of its contractual obligations. The force majeure of the coronavirus pandemic is an example of this. The election of Donald Trump is another. And whether you agree or not depends on the personal impact and interpretation of events. Twain was right: “Politicians and diapers need to be changed often, and for the same reason.”
Although casting a single vote in a sea of millions where the majority decides the winner may seem faintly akin to asserting oneself through poetry, debate among neighbors, or playing a board game lightly tinged with questions of obligation morality, in the words of Thoreau, “A wise man will not leave the law at the mercy of chance, nor will it prevail by the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of the masses of men.
Self-expression is important – and not just through art, conversation or play. Testify your point of view by voting – even if it seems as hidden and hard to find as the petroglyphs in the rock of shadow of Chino Canyon – is as vital to the soul as it is to self-expression.
Leaving Palm Springs – past the mid-century modern streetcar service station/welcome center, and past the alluvial fan of Snow Creek and the Windy Point boundary feature – down the corridor west where the uphill I-10 leaves the Coachella Valley, one can feel a sense of loss and forgetfulness.
We live in a sacred and spiritual place – a genuinely unique land that is only part of a truly original landscape and political system – and, beyond, in the greater world community. It is up to each of us to take part in the process and protect this place – and the planet.
Playing a part in this system by voting makes a difference and reinforces the paradoxical sense of individual unity where having one’s voice heard is vital and essential to change things and create a better future for our posterity.
November 8 is election day – be sure to go vote.
Michael Seeger is a poet and educator residing in Cathedral City. Prior to his life as a college English instructor, he worked as a technical writer for a baseball card company and served as a Marine infantry officer during Desert Storm. Send him an e-mail to [email protected]