The American voter stood out over a bridge on Christmas Eve, a crumpled newspaper in one hand. "Why does it seem like the world's problems are too big for anyone to solve," the voter said, to no one in particular. "And with so many so many candidates, so many races, it's too much to keep up with my busy life. I wish...I wish I didn't have to vote!"
"Your wish is granted," said the white-haired man in the fedora and overcoat behind him.
The American voter looked over in surprise. "Wait, who are you?"
"I'm Clarence, an angel, second class."
Normally the American Voter wouldn't believe in what was happening. But there was that special on the History Channel.
Then the voter noticed how quiet the streets were. Odd that they were so quiet, instead of teeming with shoppers, carolers, people rushing home from work. "Where are all the people?"
Clarence smiled. "There's no one allowed out after dark, because of the curfew."
Curfew...I don't remember reading about that. The voter looked down at the newspaper. It was set in the future, but it didn't have the negative headlines. It was pleasant to read something that didn't complain about politics or the economy, or crime, or...
Wait a minute, the voter thought, scanning the pages of the daily news. There wasn't anything negative at all. It looked like it was written by the slickest public relations firm. It was downright creepy, almost reminding the voter of that time the teacher long ago brought to class a newspaper from a totalitarian country.
"Wha-what's going on?" the American voter asked to no one in particular.
"You've been given a great gift," Clarence told the American voter. "A chance to see what life would be like if you never voted, or participated in politics."
The American voter protested. "That's impossible. I know the odds that my one ballot..."
"It's not just your one ballot," Clarence explained. "You didn't show up to the public meeting to discuss your views. You never wrote that letter to the editor, explaining to others how that candidate's position was too extreme. You never wrote to that member of Congress, protesting changes in the election law, or tried to convince anyone else to do it."
As the American voter slumped to the ground, Clarence began to speak. "Strange, isn't it? Each person's life touches so many other lives. When that person isn't around, it leaves an awful hole, doesn't it?"
"I don't want this country to be this way," the voter gasped. "I want to vote. I want to participate. Please, God, I don't want my country to end up this way. Take me back, Clarence. Take me back."
Glancing down at the fallen newspaper, the American voter could see the date, December 24, 2015, and all of the skepticism was back. But despite it all, there would be a second chance to make it right.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.