So I got an envelope in the post yesterday, from the hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier (that’s an English language page link, there). It’s the local water board, which is an institution of huge importance here in the Netherlands, for both historical and pragmatic reasions. A nation that was created by its struggle against the sea puts a lot of emphasis on the management of water.
Inside the envelope was my ballot for the 2008 water board elections. It took me about 20‡ minutes to read the notes on the ballot, which were a general statement of How to Vote, Why I Should Vote, and Why Water is Important in Noord-Holland. The classic phrase “droge voeten” (dry feet, the stated goal of Dutch water engineering throughout the nation’s history) appears three times on a single page.
My first impulse, looking at the complexity of the issues that I’m going to have to grasp to vote was to say tl;dr and fold it back up. What use would my incomer’s ignorance be?
But my husband put the matter into focus for me. He said he had considered not putting the time in to figure out who was who on the ballot; we have very little background to build on, and we are both very busy. But that the recent US election had rearranged his priorities. “It’s worth spending the time to do this,” he said. “Voting is important.”
Note that he is not an American citizen.
The US election has symbolic effects that reach far beyond the nation’s borders. You know about the value of positive campaigning, and the impact of our President-Elect’s ethnicity. But don’t forget the impact of a (fairly*) clean election on the watching world.
I’ll leave you to contemplate that; I have a bunch of Dutch to read. Gotta earn the next layer of glue on my I VOTED sticker†.
‡ my reading speed in Dutch is just about exactly an order of magnitude slower than it is in English.
* The ACORN narrative never really gained traction in Europe
† virtual sticker, I’m afraid, since I voted absentee.