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Let’s face it: there have been more than a few cringeworthy moments this election season: debates that stopped focusing on real issues and started resembling your childhood fights with your brother – at any moment you expect one of the candidates to say, “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re a moron times infinity; ” email scandals that made you long for the days of carrier pigeons; name calling and mudslinging that should otherwise have resulted in a good, long think in the timeout chair; the fact that the words “Huge” and “Great” now elicit dry heaving and hives.
But for me, perhaps the most cringeworthy moment is not what stunts candidates pull to gain your vote or what infantile tactics they resort to in order to disparage their opponent. What sets my teeth on edge is when I hear able bodied Americans carelessly utter these five words: “I’m not going to vote.”
Let’s do a quick checklist of who can vote in the good old USA:
If you answered “Yes” to all the above, you have the ability and right to vote.
But hey, I get it. The past few elections may have left a bitter taste in your mouth, and this past year alone didn’t help matters. In fact, it may have made it worse for you. You just can’t take it anymore, and you would rather eat rusty nails and listen to “My Heart Will Go On” played by one hundred kazoos on repeat than put up with it anymore.
Well, let me break it to you: change doesn’t happen until you speak up, and how do you speak up? A letter writing campaign?
No. YOU VOTE.
Let me remind you why: come this November 8th, the most important decision you will make this year will be the decision to vote.
Sit down, boys and girls – Miss Julie is about to educate you on democracy. A democracy is a representative government for the people by the people. Do you know how the “by” part happens? By voting.
As citizens in a democratic society, we sometimes get too comfortable and take for granted our basic unalienable rights, and that even includes the right to vote in an election. We think that our votes don’t count,
throw out lose the absentee ballot, or make excuses why we can’t make it to the polls.
(By the way, it is estimated that it takes only a total of 20 minutes to vote, which includes traveling to your polling location. Don’t act like that this is a huge chunk of your day when we all know you bingewatched Stranger Things in one sitting.)
But do me a favor, open a separate tab on your internet browser and search for “Iraq’s first election” and see the sea of purple fingerprints – a way to prevent voter fraud. Then Google “Women voting in Saudi Arabia” to see the line of women doing the unthinkable: waiting to cast a ballot for the first in 2015.
These voters, for decades, had their voices silent by ruthless powers and corrupted governments. What we sometimes take for granted, these people took as a ray of hope, an opportunity to change the political landscape of their home.
So, before you dig deep to find that excuse to not vote just so you can go back home and watch Access Hollywood, remember those purple fingers.
Sit back and relax because it’s story time!
A long time ago, there was this magical kingdom where men were made of brain and braun and women were made of sugar and baby makers. Men, fearing for the delicacy of the women’s oh so fragile minds, thought it would be best if their mothers, wives, and daughters didn’t have to suffer through the grueling task of entering a voting booth, examining a ballot, and making a puncture mark next to a name.
And women thought they were batshit crazy.
In four years, we will be coming to the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. And if you paid any attention in your high school U.S. history class, you know that amendment was not easily created. It came on the heels of years of protests, marches throughout the nation, emotional and even physical abuse at the hands of opposers, even wrongful imprisonments.
Let us not forget the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – that’s right, only 51 years ago – which legally prohibits any racial discrimination in the voting process. I don’t think I need to remind you of the images of American citizens being sprayed down with fire hoses and beaten to an inch of their life just because they wanted to enter a voting booth.
But I know you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I thank these people? What could I give that could possibly express my deepest gratitude for this natural gift?”
Um, vote. And the best part about it? It’s free and you don’t need a gift receipt. Unless you count your “I Voted” sticker.
Okay, so yes, we have the freedom of speech. And yes, this freedom includes the right to complain about the state of our union without persecution.
But if you don’t vote, your complaint is null and void, and really, no one wants to hear it.
Voting is your way of speaking up, letting your voice be heard, making a change. It’s your freedom of expression and making that puncture mark on that ballot speaks louder than any blowhard who’s about to pass out from his rant on why gun control is for the weak-minded.
And you want to know why it’s louder? Because with this one question, you can silence those critics: Did you vote?
If the answer is no, drop the figurative mic and walk away with your head held high because you won this round.
Chances are there is a little person in your life, who may or may not look like you, have the same last name as you, follows you around like a little shadow or ninja, and considers you sitting on a toilet a good time to stand in front of you and ask questions.
Whether it’s your own child, grandchild, or a niece or nephew, the children in our lives absorb our actions, make little mental notes and store them away for later, perhaps even visit a therapist years later to discuss why Mama called them “the spare.”
But one of the most important actions you can make in front of the next generation is the act of voting.
We want the best for our children: the best schools, the best medical care, the best environment, the best birthday parties that blow your rival carpool mom’s parties out of the water. But in order to provide the best, we have to make it a possibility and sometimes, it doesn’t happen without our vote.
If there’s anything we want our children to inherit, let it be our right to vote. And our narrow feet.