Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

“A more perfect union”: Thoughts on the Election Day

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 8 November 2018

I went to vote last Tuesday. Many people did. And as I cast my vote, I remembered something that happened a very, very long time ago—almost too long ago to remember, something that almost seems as if it were from a different life.

I was a child growing up in the Soviet Union. It was an election day there as well. I was too young to vote, but an election day was a big deal, and I recall that very clearly.

It was late in the evening, and my parents were talking about getting ready to go to the polling place before it closed. The place was very close—only about 300 meters-or-so away, at the school where I attended.

While they were talking about getting dressed, our doorbell rang. It was the police officer assigned to our precinct. No, he was not rude, he did not shove an AK47 into my parents’ faces. In fact, I remember him being very polite and professional. Nonetheless, the police came to our door because my parents had not yet voted. They had to go.

As we all entered my school’s auditorium where the polling place had been set up, I remember it being festive, brightly lit, with red (of course, red!) carpets and table cloths, and with a large red box that had a gold emblem of the Soviet Union on the front (that easily-recognizable round one, with amber sheaves of grain surrounding the map of Eurasia from sea to shining sea).

I remember the ladies, the poll workers, all dressed up, one blond with a hairdo that she had clearly paid a lot of money for earlier that day at some salon, smiling and being very happy and polite. At least, I thought they were happy and polite. They gave my parents their ballots and directed them to a private booth. I suppose, my parents wanted to give me a lesson in civic duties as they showed me their ballots, let me touch them, and explained what the different parts were.

The ballots were printed on thick, fancy paper, with gold embossed letters and emblems at the top—much, much fancier that what I was given on Tuesday at my local polling place in Portage, Wisconsin. In very high quality jet-black ink, printed on the ballot, was one name of one candidate and a box to check next to his name. I very clearly remember that, as I remember my father smirking meaningfully when he showed it to me. Apparently, that was how it almost always was.

I was too young and it was too long ago for me to remember now what kind of an election it was or who was on the ballot. But the next day it was announced that the candidate won by a landslide—with almost 100% of the electorate voting to elect him. I am not quite sure why it was ‘almost’ 100%, except that to announce on national news that it was 100% would have been awkward and incredible. Maybe, some people just didn’t check the box rightfully assuming that it did not matter.

This was a “long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” I was young, there are surely things I do not remember correctly. But let us not forget what we have here in the United States, let us not take it for granted, and let us not become complacent. No our union and our system are not perfect. I always made fun of the phrase from the Preamble “a more perfect union”: “How can something be more perfect? It is either perfect, or it is not.” But now I see the wisdom of those who chose to use this term over any other. The ultimate perfection is likely unattainable—not by us, not in this life. But what we have is so good in comparison to so many other systems that it could be called “as perfect as we could make it, and we can make it even more perfect, if we work at it.” (There is a reason why caravans are moving toward the United States, not away from it—not even to Canada, not after Obama was elected, and not after Trump was elected.) Perfection—not heavenly perfection, but our, earthly, often less perfect, perfection—can indeed be a sliding scale. Things can indeed be more perfect, as long as we remain of the proper scale (unlike men, not all scales are created equal) and keep moving in the right direction. We should not stop; we should keep trying to make our union “more perfect… and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”


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