Yesterday was election day.
I feel like I should be ashamed to say that I didn't go out to vote. But I'm not.
Every time a person (a Black person especially) says that they didn't vote, there's always these judgmental looks that follow. Like, "Do you know what your ancestors went through to get the right to vote?" of "Do you know that in some places people are still losing their lives to vote?" These questions give me pause until I realize that if I didn't have the right to vote, I'd be fighting for it too.
But not because I think voting is so vastly important in terms of who will be in office. Rather, I think, the right to vote symbolizes that an individual is a full-fledged citizen, equal to all other citizens. Not a visitor. Not an outsider. But a real part and parcel piece of the puzzle that makes up the nation. That's so incredibly important. And so I would fight to protect voting rights because of what it symbolizes.
Having the right doesn't mean that I need to be told how to use it, or if I should use it at all though. I thought of the analogy of a wealthy heiress who has inherited 6 beautiful homes all around the world but hates to travel and loves the one home she lives in. The houses belong to her. It's her right to live in all of them, use some and not others, use them as hotels, sell them, or let them fall into utter neglect. We all have our opinions on what she should do but at the end of the day, the are rightfully hers and she's free to do whatever she wants with them.
I really resented having my mailbox filled to the brim over the last couple of days with pamphlets and fliers essentially advertising different candidates as if the election was some kind of blow-out sale. I have never even heard of these people before now. Those who were seeking re-election had never in their 4 year terms made an effort to reach out to me. But now, they want my vote. Of course. Also, I religiously avoid watching or reading the news (my psyche really can't take it) and I really don't have many people in my life who talk about politics so I manage to really not get any information about candidates just in the course of my daily living. But, had these candidates left reading material at the local library over the last few months, most likely I would have read something about them. Even something as small as a bookmark because I'm good for swiping bookmarks.
I'm just not all that interested. I think sometimes that it's awful that I'm so apathetic to politics but honestly, the first election I could vote in was the botched one that put Bush in office. That shook my belief in the system in a way that I've never recovered from. In my town, I've also watched one mayor hand off to another mayor only for things to essentially stay the same although the new mayor's credo was to bring sweeping change and reform.
It doesn't help that I view politics as a kind of game where voters are really just the spectators. Sure, if spectators (voters) don't show up, the whole game suffers. They are needed, no doubt because the pay the admission fees (taxes). But who is really controlling the game? Who really makes a difference in how the game is played? What happens next? It's the players (politicians), referees, coaches and owners. To me, if you really want to make a difference, you have got to be one of those people or at least very close to one of those people.
I read a story in Good Housekeeping magazine recently about the families of people who were killed on a short domestic flight. Turns out that with these short domestic flights, there's a lot of dangerous things going on like unskilled and tired pilots and other shortcuts being taken to reduce cost. These families went to bat to try to get some laws passed to fix things. But they didn't vote about it. They went to Washington. They wrote letters to their representatives but I believe the reason they were able to get anything done really was because they got so actively involved. Casting a vote would have, quite simply, not been enough. You have got to get all up in the mix. In a way that many of us do not have the time, energy, money or motivation to do.
Interestingly enough, I'm teaching Z1 about what it means to be a good citizen. For a five year old, voting doesn't even factor into the equation. Being a good citizen means things like:
- someone who cares about their community and world
- someone who understands rules are created for the common good and doesn't break them (I add unless those rules are unjust)
- someone who shows respect for the neighbors
Too many of us grow up and reduce our good citizenship to whether or not we voted in the last election. Pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and keep on living in our insulated, solitary worlds caring not one whit about all the other hallmarks of good citizenship.
So maybe I should have gone out to vote yesterday but I'm not losing sleep about it. Not even really all that interested in the results. I kind of know that there is a system in place and that no one guy voted in is really going to rock the system too hard.
There are some elections that I know I should pay more attention to (like senate and presidential elections--playoffs and superbowls). But the others . . . I'm just not at all motivated. But it doesn't mean I'm ungrateful for the sacrifices made so that it was my decision to make whether or not I'd go out and vote.