• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Georgia Voting Law: The Abstemious Experience Of Neither Food Nor Drink

Of all the exceptionable parts of Georgia’s newly-enshrined and—despite having not yet been implemented—widely-abhorred voting law, an odious and, doubtless, racist piece of legislation against which, in their strident harmony of ire and collective cry of tyranny and bias, both the lover of true democracy and the friend of unfettered suffrage join loudly to rage, the prohibition on distributing beverages and snacks to those waiting in line seemed to me, at first glance, the least offensive. Such, at least, was my initial impression, until I came to learn that this small component of the law appears to have attracted the most anger, and, with it, the most impassioned denunciations.

How is it, I ask, one could bother with so trivial a concern as the provision of food and drink whilst in line, when so many larger abuses are being imposed by this frightful bill? And on whom, exactly, are so many countless unfriendly and bigoted impositions being piled? Who, having scanned the unsmiling faces of the victims suddenly burdened by their awful weight, do we see as the buckling, defenseless subjects of their heavy and unlawful abuse?

None, so far as I can tell, but a gentle and rule-abiding public, a citizenry ostensibly hungry not for stale baked goods, crumbling bars of granola, and sodium-laden crackers and chips, but for a morsel, merely, of something far richer. The craving is not for empty, unwholesome snacks on which to waste sacred calories, but for the invigorating, ethereal right by which our ruddy body politic is built—the ever-nourishing right to vote. Might not this demand a greater part of our attention, and might we not exert ourselves to satisfy this mistreated people’s gaping appetite for democracy, and bottomless hunger for representation, for which their famished souls call out?

How is it that this peculiar aspect of this notorious law—ancillary to the greater theme with which we might be more passionately concerned—has claimed so high a position of superiority and notice? How could one focus her attention on so petty a matter, such as that of the deprivation of the flesh while idly queued—the body’s feeble inability to be repaired by the immediate distribution of food and drink when standing, motionless, in the sinuous tedium of a line—when a vital entity of much greater import, the very spirit of our republic, was being drained of its essential life and starved of its boundless vigor? Why, in a word, should we care so deeply about the grumbling, transitory distress of the belly, when it’s the spirit, in truth, that’s being so meanly treated and openly injured?

Outside the changes to one’s ability either to receive or distribute gifts food, and imbibe or furnish hydrating beverages or refreshing liquids, there are many more important components of this dreadful bill that serve to damage the spirit. The satiation of one’s stomach, and the slaking of one’s thirst, I should think, are deserving of much less emphasis and consideration.

For instance, instead of voters being uncomfortably confined to the inhospitable hours of 9 AM and 5 PM, a narrow window of time to which the average, blue-collar work day—so peremptory in its demands and reluctant in its concessions of leisurely breaks—will yield not a minute, the Georgia legislature decided on an expansion. Now, should the locality choose to lengthen the frugal and abbreviated hours during which, surely, only a small number of voters can make their way to the ballot, 7 AM till 7 PM will be the acceptable period of time. Some might think this enlargement an improvement on what was a sparse and unwelcoming bloc of time, an eight-hour period from which far too many people were excluded. But what, I ask, are we to say to those who find themselves lost in the dark interminability of a twelve-hour shift? Are we now actively suppressing the suffrage of policemen and nurses, and people whose day commences in the pre-dawn darkness, and ends with the faint gleam of the moon?

Instead of focusing on such blatant impositions and grave injustices as the addition of more Saturdays and Sundays to the early-voting schedule, critics of this bill are fixated on water and food. How could they overlook so depraved a measure, as that which would avail citizens of a more generous and ample opportunity to cast their votes over the languid course of the weekend? If, sadly, the busy week to which they’re otherwise tethered forecloses to them the option of voting between Monday and Friday, that shrinking bracket of time during which so little beyond work can ever be done, the genial warmth of the weekend would gladly receive them. Save the devout Sabbatarian, unwavering in his commitment to an entire Saturday of uninterrupted worship and pious rest, everyone would have the chance to make use of his two favorite days of the week.

Yet the critics of this repugnant law allow this horrifying fact to go unmentioned. How could they not pounce on it at once and declare it incompatible with our democratic ideals? They fail to do so, as they appear unblinkingly to be focused on the crisis of food and drink.

So too do they forego the chance to castigate this law for its insistence that a driver’s license number, or some other form of numerical identification, be inscribed on an absentee ballot, that useful little piece of state-issued paper for which the eager, perhaps temporarily distant voter must apply. Might I remind them that such modest attempts at verification and honesty are unbecoming of a nation as liberal and permissive as is ours, or as we’d like it to be? Could they not also assail the unthinkable effort to re-locate the hundreds of ballot “drop boxes” from their current, scattered places, to those bastions of despotism for which they’re so obviously least suited—official election buildings and voting offices? We all know that the inaccessibility of these buildings is but “Jim Crow” by another name, and that this intolerable affront to the democratic process won’t survive the type of penetrating scrutiny offered by our ethics and morals.

Still, the critics of this law are less vocal in their denunciations of its many hateful and undemocratic aspects. They focus their wrath, rather, on what would appear the bill’s least objectionable component: the people’s inability to be dined with packaged snacks and nursed with bottled refreshments while waiting in line for the chance to cast a ballot. They cringe at the idea of some partisan peddler, loafing about the entrance of the sacred polling station’s door, being unable to thrust into some voter’s hand a bottle of water, and into his face, an oil-soaked bag of chips, reminding him, in the process, of the great munificence and the bountiful warmth of the preferred candidate from whom those generous victuals were procured. They regret that his vicarious act of kindness, issued through the medium of the electioneering partisan, on behalf of the candidate to whom he’s attached, will occur no more.

I admit, my opinion on this part of the voting law is somewhat biased. I have little tolerance and, frankly, no sympathy for those who can neither silence their gluttonous hunger, nor control their unslakable thirst for the briefest periods of time. These, I contend, are but mindless instincts of appetite, feelings commonly shared with the unthinking beast, to which, yes, we’d do well occasionally to be attentive—if only to replete our fading energy and sustain our lagging strength—but to which we should never become fully enslaved, as lately we’ve become.

Yet, as things stand, very few people have the ability to resist the haughty despotism of the stomach and liberate themselves from their royal appetite’s needs. Granted, it can be a most imperious and unrelenting master, a gustatory king to whom most find themselves utterly powerless. It can be a tyrant, perhaps the only tyrant, before whom they’d happily kneel, so long as they be fed when they arise and regain the posture of a man.

An occasional fast, they claim, would be absolutely fatal and destructive to life. A deliberate forbearance from food—for even a short duration of time—would be thought masochistic, if not completely suicidal. An abstemious hour unspent in mastication might risk forgetting precisely how that chewing practice goes, and any pulsation of unsweetened blood through the quivering veins must be fixed by an emergency bolus of sugar. The slightest discomfort, the most subdued utterance of the stomach, will force us again to bury our faces in the capacious trough.

I can assure you, much less frequency of consumption is required for the thriving of the individual, and the healthy continuation of her life. Thankfully, few actually face the real, looming threat of dehydration—the parched desiccation of the muscle, skin, and bone, by which many less fortunate in history have been so torturously killed. An hour or two spent in line will subject you to nothing even comparable to so arid and agonizing a fate.

And, if I’m not mistaken, is not everyone these days carrying with him an over-sized bottle emblazoned with the name, “Yeti”? For a people so little inclined to exercise and sweat, I’m always surprised to see how anxious everyone is to replete that which remains unlost. Perhaps it’s the unknown fear and shadowy myth of perspiration that inspires thirst. Whatever the cause, people can address their issues with their own bottles; they need not receive them from partisans or the state.

As for your hunger, that empty sensation to which you can’t help but being conscious, be charitable to yourself. Relieve, if only for a moment, your over-worked metabolism. It’s deserving of respite and, like you, is in need of momentary calm. Unburden it of the incessant task, the Sisyphean job of always having to grapple with another forkful of incoming food, after having just finished one prior.

But I digress. My advice to Georgians, and those scandalized by the new law beneath which they’ll now be made to trudge, is as follows: simply stand in line, read a delightful book, call a forgotten friend, reflect on your imminent choice of one candidate or another, and think not of food and drink. Indulge not your, but relish your reason.

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