Sunday’s Wisdom #278: Vote Your Conscience

“As long as every one of us votes his or her conscience every time, then we’ve done the best – and the least – we can do under the circumstances.”
– Commodore Gaston Simmons, Echoes of Honor
Honor
Harrington series, by David Weber

This may have been more appropriate to share, say, the Sunday before the next major election in my country. However, I am an impatient little imp who would rather get it out there as soon as possible. And, of course, if the stats of where people are when they see my posts is any proof, then, through the miracle of the internet, I am not speaking only to people in my own nation. That is a strange feeling for so humble a blogger as myself, to see that my posts are being viewed all around the world. I am sure it must be a most interesting experience for anyone who doesn’t speak English and has to rely on translating software. But I digress.

Commodore Gaston Simmons is a very minor character, really. But he is one of the officers serving on a panel in charge of a series of serious court-martials, alongside one of the more major supporting characters. In the face of this grave responsibility, taken on in most unusual circumstances, the officers involved are as rational and level-headed as anyone could have a right to expect, even when they disagree on what course to pursue. The decisions they make are difficult, but vital, weighing consequences of life and death in the pursuit of justice. They do this based on all of the available evidence, but they can’t always be certain. So what do they do when they disagree?

In short: they each cast the best vote they can, in accordance with conscience.

The results are not always what any of them really want, but that’s just the way it goes. They have to live with that, and knowing that they did their best, whatever their limits, means they can live with not getting things perfect.

There is something very profound in that, I think. Especially since Simmons says this in response to when one of his colleagues is apologizing for not being able to vote in unanimity with them. He brushes that aside, and explains how important it is that they be able to disagree. They cannot afford to forsake their consciences, but as long as they do their best, well… that’s all they can really ask of each other, isn’t it?

I’m sure my point here is fairly obvious. 😉

I don’t believe we need to stop disagreeing with one another. Indeed, I don’t believe we could or should do any such thing. I believe that, on some level, many of us have actually demanded that very thing without even realizing it, or realizing the danger of it. But most of all, I believe we have forgotten that all we can ask of each other is our best. We’re all in the same boat together, so we need to work together, and that includes each of us doing our best. Not “doing the same as the person next to us.”

It’s not their best, or even my best, but our best, that we should worry about. Each of us, doing our own individual best, and allowing the same for others, lets us all do our best.

It may be filled with bumps and bruises to our egos, and our perspectives, but it’s the only way forward: together, but not in lock-step with each other.

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