This post was written by S.A. Jones, winner of the Attitude category of our writers competition.
I awoke on the morning of the last federal election feeling hopelessly ‘meh’. I still hadn’t made up my mind who to vote for. The choice of candidates ranged from the banal to the terrifying. Voting would serve only to encourage them.
This heartsickness was out of character for me. I’m pretty earnest when it comes to civic responsibility. I’ve been that crashing bore at parties, lecturing people about how irresponsible donkey voting is. I once re-enacted the tennis court oath in my girlfriend Donna’s backyard to explain the difference between the right and left in politics. (Despite being a touch drunk, I’m told my improvisation was both entertaining and enlightening).
As I rounded the bend towards the local primary school I walked past a couple in their fifties. The woman was expressing disbelief at how her husband had voted. ‘It was time for a change’, he said to her. ‘Time for some new ideas. Fresh blood’.
They continued on their way, debating his decision. So much for the old anti-suffragist argument that giving women the vote was pointless because they would simply replicate their men-folks’ preferences!
The queue for the electoral role was orderly and patient. Whatever my fellow voters may have been feeling, there was not the faintest whiff of aggression. If anything, the mood was neighbourly. I thought of the countries where simply turning up on voting day was an act of physical courage. The greatest danger facing me was a paper cut.
The electoral officer located me on the roll, asked if I had already voted and gave me my sheaf of ballot papers. I stood in my cubicle and considered the senate paper.
I felt so leaden that I’d decided to vote above the line. My pencil hovered above the box, ready to strike it’s lazy ‘one’.
In the fraction of a millimetre between the pencil-tip and the paper was the ghost of my late Uncle Roy. A keen amateur historian, Roy bequeathed me his collection of newspaper clippings and books on the Second World War. He also gave me the diary he picked out of the mud when he was serving in France.
That diary is one of my most prized possessions. I know that I should donate it to a museum or see if the Department of Veterans’ Affairs can track down the diarist’s family, but I can’t part with it. I transcribed the diary many years ago, so as not to handle it unnecessarily. It makes for heart-breaking reading. The soldier is so naïve in his enthusiasm. ‘I can’t wait to get stuck into the Bosh’ he writes at one point.