The two countries I call mine - Australia and the USA - have big Tuesdays this week. Both involve races. Both races stop the nation...for a moment in one case, but possibly for another two years in the other. But the more I think about it, the more similarities there are between these big events which this year are both happening on November 6.
Both races cause great excitement across the nation in which they take place. People turn out in great numbers in both countries, either to place their vote or place a bet. In both instances, much time and effort has gone into getting more people to participate. And although there is no guarantee of a win in either race, people do take part and polls and odds are calculated as predictions are made for the outcome.
There is a favourite in each race, and the consequences of losing can be career-ending. Despite the money invested in the contender, losing either race can result in the contender being put out to pasture. Despite all the effort, all the fanfare, all the hype...in many cases there is no coming back from such a loss.
There is only one winner in each race, paying dividends to those who backed them. In each race this can be life-changing. Winning a vast amount of money on the horse race will no doubt impact your future. The prestige of training this horse, too, will have lasting effect. For most, however, the win is small and fleeting, and then it's back to work and life goes on as normal. In the case of the election this is the same: the victory is joyous for those who backed the winner, and the impact can be life-changing. Also for those who suffer the loss acutely, those who are personally impacted by policy changes. In most cases, however, the ramifications are not immediately felt. It's off to work again tomorrow, the next day...perhaps the impact will never touch most of us personally. The big difference, of course, is the critical importance of participating, knowing winning or losing will impact upon everyone.
Finally, both races feature small men. Small men who hold the reigns and guide their horse or country. There is no doubting the warm, caring relationship between the jockeys and the horses they ride. It is not the jockey who takes the glory of the victory, but the horse. And the losing jockeys? Accepting of their role in the loss and gracious in defeat. The mid-term elections are not a direct vote for President, but in this case there is no escaping who people are voting for or against. If only we could hope to see a similar disposition from the President as the results of the election come in, whatever they are.
I didn't have a win on the Melbourne Cup this year, but I've not given it a thought since. A loss in the other race, however, will come at a great and lasting cost. Here's hoping we have collectively backed a winner...