Packed into a sweltering hall during the entirety of the swimsuit season of 1787, the architects of our government created from whole cloth the pseudo-functioning country in which we currently live. In response to the oppressions of the English monarchy, these wigged gentlemen put power in the hands of the people. Or, rather, very certain people that looked a lot like me and perhaps not at all like you. In the intervening years, many have given their hearts and lives so that others may have the same privilege of participation in the affairs of the country. And yet, we have rewarded these suffragettes and civil rights activists with apathy, with shameful voter turnout, with a lazy rejection of the ideals for which our country once stood. This cannot last.
Participation is the only way to directly effectuate change. If you look around and do not like what you see, getting involved is the pathway to creating the world as you wish it to be. Or, if you are thrilled with the present state of affairs, the way to protect the status quo is to work to cement its existence. The most basic method of so participating is filling out a ballot. It is the bare minimum of civic engagement.
There are those who attempt to impose obstacles to casting a vote. I sympathize deeply with the targets of these actions. However, while these roadblocks are unfair and undemocratic and cowardly, they do not have the restraining force of a hangman’s noose. It may be more than slightly inconvenient to vote, but participation is more important than essentially anything not immediately life-threatening.
Participation connotes activity. Passively imbibing rhetoric and repeating the taunts and threats of demagogues does not count as participation in our now-fragile democracy. Participation requires education, discussion, long periods of deep thought. It is not a knee-jerk phenomenon, nor is it the culmination of long-held, but little-understood prejudices or predilections.
Participation requires one to interact with people who hold opposing viewpoints, to try to understand those who may be adversely affected by the policies that you are being told to support. Participation demands a critical evaluation of the promises made on the campaign trail, in town halls, in editorials. If those bold declarations sound either too good to be true or unnecessarily cruel, then your duty as a citizen requires you to jettison them in favor of a sane, rational, humane direction.
If you do not vote in this election and are not in a coma, then I consider you a lost cause. Punishment enough, potentially, but you also lose the liberties that are commensurate with participation, including the right to criticize the outcomes. You cannot throw proverbial rotten tomatoes at your representatives if you did not vote for their opponents. You cannot lament the implementation of programs if you did not formally oppose them. If you wait until the next election, it very well may be too late. It is hard to swim against the tide.
Given the precipice upon which our country stands, the results of this election are as critical as they have been in the 231 years since the Constitution was presented for ratification. November 6 is a referendum on the form that this county, state, and country will take for the foreseeable future. Your voice is strong, your voice counts, your voice is critical. Go vote!