I just finished filling out my ballot for this year’s election.  It took me nearly an hour to fill out but it feels like over a year’s worth of effort.

 Like many others, I’m sure, I’ve felt like this has been the longest, bitterest election ever.  It’s challenged so many of us in so many ways: beliefs, identities, customs, friendships, to name a few.

 At times, it was easy to feel as if there were vast, unseen forces manipulating everything behind the scenes, controlling my choices in leaders, in policies, in shaping my beliefs or in how I get information on any of the above.

 But, as I sealed my ballot, I realized something:

 I have more freedom than just about any person ever has had.

 I am free to vote, obviously, but not only am I free to cast my vote, I am free to do so anonymously, without fear of recrimination.

 I am free to choose a party, or, if I don’t feel like a party represents me, I’m free to not choose a party.  There’s no requirement for me to align myself with a ruler, a guild, a church, a union or any other group.  My voice is mine.

 I am free to seek out the views of others, and, just as importantly, I am free to reject the opinions of many.  I am free to change my mind as I gather new information and perspectives.

 I am free to gather information in so many ways.  Instead of being limited by what newspapers, magazines and television have to offer me I have the freedom to actively and easily scour information online.  I am free to check, double-check, confirm and evaluate more information than any voter prior to the mid-1990s.

 I am free to choose where to manage my money.  If I don’t like the policies and practices of a bank or financial institution, I’m free to pull my money out and put it in a different bank or credit union.  I can invest wherever I like.  I don’t even have to leave home to do so.

 I am free enough of time that I can devote some of my time to ensure others have the same freedoms.

 Is it always easy?  No, of course not.  But what of any consequence ever was easy?

 And, you know what? You are free, too.  The heaviest shackle is complacency, but I think you’ll find that if you tug at that shackle it’ll fall off pretty easily.

 Go fill out your ballot and turn it in.  Your voice is important.

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