Brave Iraqi voters point way to nation#039;s future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Inky, purple fingers pointed the way on Sunday as millions of U.S. citizens had a great opportunity to learn a good bit about what it means to be American.

Millions of Iraqis went to the polls in historic elections in the Middle Eastern country and the entire world watched with awe.

As each Iraqi voter cast their vote, each also did something that many Americans would find difficult to imagine - risking their lives just for an opportunity to choose a leader.

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Initially, poll watchers reported the Iraqi voter turnout might have topped 70 percent of all eligible voters. Since those early reports, the election workers have backed off those original lofty turnout numbers.

Exact figures may not been known for days to come, but it is suffice to say that most people agree that the turnout exceeded almost all expectations.

It was amazing. Voters flocked to the polls in Iraq risking all - more than 40 people were killed during Election Day violence.

Just when many people thought that the first step toward Democracy would be a small baby step, the brave Iraqi people took a giant leap. Among the bravest of voters are the Sunni Muslims of the Iraqi minority who risked total ostracism as well as the violence.

Halfway around the globe a few months ago, Americans turned out in record numbers to choose our leader. The saddest thing is that despite the "record-breaking" aspect of it, many, many Americans who can vote do not vote.

Each election year, American poll workers struggle to motivate the electorate. And each year after the election they discuss why more voters didn't come out and exercise the right to choose.

Was it the weather?

Was it just pure complacency?

We couldn't help but wonder how American voters would handle similar obstacles to casting our ballots.

We hope that under similar circumstances, Americans would have the same courage as our newfound democratic world neighbors. And, while we hope we never have to find out, we know the way - just follow the purple fingers.