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Aristotle famously said that excellence is a habit. The guy who hits one lucky half-court shot isn’t necessarily an excellent basketball player. The career 90% from-the-line guy is. Habits are the result of repeated action, and such habitual excellence is what we aim at in all facets of life. We call these habits of excellence virtues. The habitually excellent musician is a virtuoso. Such may also be said of the athlete and the intellectual as well.
When we speak of habitual excellence in the moral virtues (habitually choosing those goods which make us better human beings), we often don’t have a word for it these days. “Saint” seems too preachy, apt for talking about a martyr or your mom. “Hero” could be the result of a one-time act, not a habit, (although most heroes’ one big act was the result of a habit of excellence, for sure.) “Great guy” seems too colloquial. Let’s just say “exemplary human being.”
One very important choice we have to make is voting in an election. When we vote, we say many things about ourselves. The choice of whom to vote for should express what we think about the nature of goodness and how it applies to government. It expresses what we think about the common good. Ideally, if we vote for someone who benefits us, without thinking of how it affects others, our vote reveals us to be selfish and narrow minded.
Choosing not to vote at all, of course, either shows us to not care about our society, or to be jaded about the process, or to have sifted through the choices and, after due consideration, picked “none of the above.”
Does our vote show us to be committed to being “exemplary human beings”? That is the real question in any moral decision. Have we done the homework? Do we have reasons for voting for each candidate? Are those reasons objective? Are those reasons in conformity with what we profess to be true and important? Do those reasons show that our priorities match up with what we say our priorities are?
For professed Catholics, does my vote line up with the priorities that my Church teaches? If not (and this is true on any major moral issue, not only voting) I should be honest enough to admit that I am not, in fact, in communion with the Church.
But for anyone, election time is decicion time. It is as much a decision about ourselves as it is a decision about candidates. We are choosing a vision of the good, we are choosing whom we trust. We are deciding, based on the always fallible promises of always fallible people, what direction we want our county, state, county to go in.
So exercise your right to vote, but be a voting virtuoso. Consider whether your vote helps you progress on that royal road of human perfection, the pathway of virtue. We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, must above all commit ourselves to becoming more perfect people.