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I voted.

Like 1 million other Tennesseans so far, I arrived, showed my ID, got the sticker.

It was a huge relief. It took maybe five minutes, but it immunized me from the barrage of TV attack ads that has hit Tennessee like a bad chest cold.

Now we know what people in Ohio and Florida feel like in presidential election years. Once you vote, though, you don't have to pretend to listen to the ads any more. You can just zone it all out. La-la-la-la, I can't hear you, stupid TV commercial.

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Mark Kennedy

On my Monday lunch break, I drove from downtown to the Hamilton County Election Commission office off Amnicola Highway to cast my ballot. (You don't need navigation; just follow the campaign signs.) I like the contrast between a loud, raucous campaign and the quiet, solitary act of voting.

Behind my cardboard partition, signs reminded me not to talk to others and to turn off my cellphone. It was so quiet I could hear my black, felt-tip pen chirp as I filled in my ballot. I'm happy to report I colored within the lines — mostly.

My ballot was short, with only about five races. The only thing that stumped me were the 26 independent candidates for Tennessee governor. Can't we just have a thumb-wrestling tournament to whittle that field down to two or three independents?

As far as I can tell, to get on the ballot you have to be 30 years old, have lived in Tennessee for at least seven years and have persuaded 25 other voters to sign your petition. Do that, and you can forevermore call yourself a former gubernatorial candidate — or just "guber" for short.

Politics has taken an oversized place in America today, but it's still important. In deciding whom to vote for, I try to look both ways: forward and backward.

Beyond being a civic duty, I also think voting is a family obligation. My father didn't freeze in a foxhole in faraway Korea for me to skip a midterm election. "What would my father do?" is a reasonable question to ask, as there is wisdom to be found in intergenerational values.

I also try to look ahead to think about how my vote may affect our two children, both of whom have a shot to live into the 22nd century. Crazy, huh?

Only after I've looked both ways and taken a deep breath do I feel confident in my choice of candidates.

I don't know about you, but I'll be glad when the TV ads stop and the yard signs go away and whatever that's about to happen on Election Day Tuesday happens.

I'm tired of politics as a spectator sport. Tired of the way it makes me feel hung over without ever actually taking a drink. Tired of the rancor that envelops people who have too much free time and nothing better to think about.

After Tuesday, how about we all take a little holiday from politics. Change the subject. Read a good book. Taste our food and quit worrying so much about manufactured conflict. Meditate on the things that make us happy, not the things that make us feel sad.

Another election will roll around soon enough.

In the meantime, can we please chill?

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.

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