“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” -Plato
Politics can be boring. Politics can seem irrelevant. Politics can seem like a bunch of people endlessly yelling at one another. Politics can cause tensions, even among the oldest of friends. Yet, politics are extremely important and affects nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives.
I believe that we have a civic duty to be informed, individuals. Americans who utilize their rights as citizens to vote whenever an opportunity presents itself. If we don’t, then we really shouldn’t deserve to take advantage of the many benefits that come our way through the political process.
I believe that voting is Political activism. Political activism helped to abolish slavery. Political activism helped earn women the right to vote. Political activism helped to desegregate our society. Political activism aided the rights of the terminally ill, the elderly, veterans, children, labor laws, victims rights, the religious and the centrist alike.
The entire history of our country, from Revolution to modern day, has been woven through with political activism. In our current society, political activism advocates for de-escalation training for every police department in America, the reexamination of the Brady Bill, as well as a proposed increase to the Federal Minimum Wage Law. All necessary actions needed to ensure the proper advancement of American society as a whole. So you see, the entire history of our country, from Revolution to modern day, has been changed for the good when ordinary citizens vote.
While it may feel like our vote won’t be able to cause waves in the grand scheme of things, that it is pointless to vote. But imagine if everyone had that mindset. Hardly anyone would vote. This is little more than apathy disguised as political activism.
The bottom line for me is this: When you don’t vote, you’re letting other people decide your future. You’re saying that you don’t care what happens to your nation, to your community, on your street, and in your home.
If you’re worried about your vote not counting in today’s election, then let’s look at local elections. Accordingly to PEW Research, fewer than a quarter of all Americans participate in local elections. Whereas nearly half of all Americans vote in national elections. Statistically, when it comes to the presidential ballot, your vote matters more.
Just as within each town in America where city managers, city council members, and ombudsman, elected officials whose terms of office effect the day-to-day actions of your community by way of the allocation of grant and tax funding, local option levies, and laws concerning drug use and incarceration, as does the office of president when it comes to the world stage. The office of the president affects your life.
Even with presidential elections, voter turnout is not what it should be. There are many citizens who don’t bother until the general election comes about in November to decide on their own political prerogative. Ignoring their own voting voice during the primary and caucus season. Seasons which affect primary politics in a major and important way.
While we know that today’s presidential election vote is very controversial and contentious, it’s still no less important. Educate yourself. Be open to new ideas. Pay attention to the news. Don’t let other people decide elections for you. Show that you care.
Every citizen has the right to vote, but no citizen is obligated to do so. But they should be. While it might sound cliche, someone did die for you to have the right to vote. Others gave their life’s blood. And still more continue to give all that they have to make this nation a better place to live, by way of their term in office. I believe they are called community organizers.
I’m not speaking about truisms or generalities. I’m speaking about realities. My reality. You see, I’m a woman. I come from a long line of immigrants, unionists, rebel-rousers, several teenage mothers, and my poor white trash distant relations from centuries past who lived on the wrong side of the tracks. I’m also the wife of a public educator and a veteran of war. I work from home in a volatile financial climate. I am a citizen of the world and my world faces an uncertain future due to climate change. Which by the way, is a real and very true reality. I’m also among the ten percent of women in this world who possess a professional degree, who worries over the legacy she will leave her family.
So what does this mean? That I can’t afford to be another random statistic. That I can’t afford to stand behind the banner of white privilege. That I can’t afford to be complacent in my demographic box. That I can’t afford to be apathetic. That I can’t afford to not vote today.
Refusing to vote is not an affirmative political choice. When candidates are odious, when their campaigns traffic in character-assassination, when election ads are no more than shameless pandering funded by unknown, unresearched super PACs, you might think that as a rational voter you should disengage from politics and not vote. But this idea is little more than entitlement disguised as a conscientious objector.
When you don’t vote you are no better than a mudslinging candidate. You are no different than an unscrupulous lobbyist. You silently sympathize with big pharma, GMO-laden foods, police brutality, and the underfunding of urban schools. In the words of Dr. King,”In the end, we remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Apathy is passive aggression in action.
Please don’t get me wrong: I’m a lifelong voter. No one has to persuade me to show up on Election Day to cast a ballot. I like the communal spirit of voting; years after marking my first ballot, I’m still moved by the civic ritual of coming together as equals, peacefully engaged in self-government.
I believe that voting is akin to an act of faith- faith that government of, by, and for the people still has real meaning, notwithstanding the inescapable hold of apathy in America. And this political activism cannot stop after November. That’s just the beginning. Political awareness begins the minute you leave the voting booth.
I urge you friends: Pay attention to issues in our nation. Find issues you’re passionate about and rally behind them. Show that you care about your community. Find some way to give back. Get involved. And if you can today, vote. Because political apathy is not OK.
You matter. Therefore you should vote.