Ballot Guide for American Life, From A to Z

Today voters across the country are going to the polls, mostly likely to face a mind-rattling list of measures and initiatives. In Ventura County, California, where I live, we will vote on a dozen measures, encompassing topics ranging from the death penalty to labeling for genetically engineered foods. The voter guide explaining these measures is only slightly less sizeable than The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. It, too, is written in English, although sometimes it is hard to tell.

As I write this, debate regarding these measures -- not to mention the Senate, Congressional and Presidential races -- has reached fever pitch. The din of shouting is certainly not unique to California. Beneath all the noise, I hear the whisper of things lost.

And so I propose a ballot of simple measures. You will receive no mailers or phone calls attempting to influence you. There will be no TV, radio, or internet blitz. I won't even tell you how I'm going to vote, though you may be able to guess.

It is possible to think quietly on our own about such things, and debate the issues with respect and reserve. Nothing is preventing us from doing so.

Maybe these measures will help. Maybe they won't. It's up to you to decide.

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Measure A. For All of us. In this together.

Measure B. For Beginnings. Sometimes things look impossibly overwhelming, and they will remain that way if we don't make a start.

Measure C. For Cooperation. So that we might work together, instead of squaring off like petulant children.

Measure D. For agreeing to Disagree, politely.

Measure E. For Effort. Because that's what hard things take.

Measure F. For the Freedom to choose. This is no off-handed gift; so many died to give us this right.

Measure G. For Generosity. Sometimes we have to give so that others may benefit.

Measure H. For Honesty. There is nothing deceiving about any of these measures. There are no loopholes or fine print. What you see is what you get. What is written is what is delivered. A good way to construct a measure, and a life.

Measure I. As in the pronoun. Which should follow a step behind We.

Measure J. As in the Judicious application of common sense.

Measure K. For Kindness. Admittedly closely tied to several other measures, but this one cannot be repeated enough. If you've ever experienced kindness, the power of this measure requires no further explanation.

Measure L. For Loyalty. To a cause great than our own.

Measure M. For putting Me aside when it matters.

Measure N. For No. No more self-interest, no more deceit, no more ugly divisiveness.

Measure O. For Open-Mindedness. A closed mind ends any hope of progress.

Measure P. For Patience. Things take time.

Measure Q. For Quality. Why would we settle for anything less?

Measure R. For Resourcefulness. Let's apply this measure to help solve our problems. It has produced miracles in the past.

Measure S. For Service.

Measure T. For Team Spirit. Admittedly some overlap here too, but again we can't have too much of this. From the Declaration of Independence on, this country has accomplished wondrous things working together.

Measure U. For Unity. It's what made our country great. Somehow we've lost it in a cloud of divisiveness, but it has been there all the time. We are, after all, the United States.

Measure V. For Vote. Still only a dream in so many countries, but dreams come true here.

Measure W. For Wisdom. And the ability to see the truth through the fog.

Measure X. For the pursuit of Excellence in every endeavor we undertake. Including education.

Measure Y. For You. Your decisions can make a difference.

Measure Z. For the mandatory inclusion of Zucchini in every baked casserole. Because this wouldn't be a ballot without at least one head-scratching measure.

Ken McAlpine is a three-time Lowell Thomas award-winner. His most recent book is "Fog," praised by one critic as "one of the most intelligent, richly detailed, deeply felt and evocative novels I've read." He writes weekly on KCET's SoCal Focus blog about Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.