On Tuesday, I will climb into my Jeep Wrangler and drive three miles to the volunteer rescue squad headquarters here in Floyd County and, finally, have my say about who will be the next President of the United States, one of two U.S. Senators from Virginia, and my elected representative.

Based on what has happened in states with early voting, I probably will have to stand in line – a rarity here in the hills – and may need a cup of hot coffee to fight the early morning cold. I will probably know those ahead and behind in line and we’ll talk about the weather, the high school football team’s chances of finishing the regular season undefeated and how much leaves we have all had to rake from our lawns.

We probably won’t talk politics – except to express relief that the long political season is almost over. Too many political discussions in this passionate election season end in anger. Some end with punches thrown, noses bloodied and knuckles bruised.

Sadly, election 2008 brought a simmering, divided America to a boil. This election season strained friendships, destroyed coalitions and brought hate, racism and bigotry to the surface. Our country is split apart by philosophical and political differences fueled by hate, fear and ignorance. Tuesday’s winners face not only daunting challenges in dealing with a failing economy, controversial war and a broken system of government: They must also find a way to work together to put this nation back together.

Republicans tried to make this campaign a referendum on love of country – a sad but typical tactic of the rabid right – but we all love our country. That’s why a record number of us will most likely turn out Tuesday to exercise our right to vote and have our say in what happens to this nation in the coming years.

We’ve survived the endless barrage of campaign commercials, sorted through the half-truths and outright lies from both parties and all candidates, dodged the robocalls that arrive before breakfast and dodged the pamphleteers that chase us down at gas stations, farmers’ markets and shopping malls. We’re endured the longest, most expensive political campaign season in American history and now we must sort through all the propaganda and garbage to try and arrive at a reasoned decision in the voting booth.

Every candidate from the farmer running for a seat on the local school board to the polished political pro vying for the Presidency promises to “make a difference” if elected to office.

But it will be the people standing in line on a cold Tuesday morning in a rural Blue Ridge Mountain community who will make a difference, along with the millions of others who voted early in the past few days or who will head for their polling places on Election Day.
The political circus is about to strike its tent. The show is over.

Now it’s our turn.