I’ll admit I’m a news junkie. I don’t mind listening to NPR all day long. I just like to keep current and know what is happening around the world.
I have lived in a country that censors its news and information. So now that I’m back in the USA, I’m making up for fourteen years of lack of news, including election news.
Every time a presidential election rolls around I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a Chinese colleague. It was the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. I call it the hanging chad election. Before the general election my colleague begged me.
“When you vote, please don’t forget us,” he pleaded.
“I can’t vote on your behalf,” I said. “I can only vote for what I believe is best for my country.”
I feel bad for saying that. I realize, in retrospect, that what my friend was really saying was he was not free to choose his country’s leaders. He has no say in how his government runs his country. He has no say in how he would like to be governed.
I, as an American however, do have that privilege to choose my leaders. I have the privilege to tell my leaders how to run my country. I can tell my leaders how I would like to be governed. Every time the election comes I’m reminded of this conversation and the fact that in many countries like China, people do not have the privilege to choose their leaders. They cannot call their officials and say, “stop doing this or we’ll vote you out of office.” They just have to sit back and take what their leaders give them without complaint.
So I’m terribly disappointed when I hear that my fellow Americans don’t get out and vote. I am equally ticked off when these same non-voters complain about what is wrong with our government. I remember my sister complaining about George W. Bush just after he won his re-election in 2004.
“Did you vote?” I asked.
“Then stop complaining,” I said. “You didn’t vote, so you have no right to complain.”
I take voting very seriously. Back in 2008 when candidate Obama was running, I already knew that I was going to vote for him. But I also wanted to make the right choice. I with held my absentee ballot until a week before the election and scoured the Internet for information on third party candidates and what they stood for. I looked for Green, Independent, and Libertarian candidates but there wasn’t much info on any of them. Nor was there any coverage in the media.
I was so thorough that my ballot missed the voting deadline for absentee ballots.
This year I have the opportunity of serving as an election precinct official. I want to learn more about the election process as a way of re-integrating myself into American culture and to help me get over re-entry shock. I’m looking forward to both elections.
But I know that many of my fellow Americans are not looking forward to voting. They are content to let others vote on their behalf. However when things get tough they start complaining about our leadership just like my sister did.
If you didn’t vote then you shouldn’t complain.
So if there’s an issue that you care about, get out and vote. If you want a say in your government, get out and vote. If you want to be a part of the answer and not the problem, get out and vote.
Voting is a privilege, not a right. It is a privilege that people in other countries would love to have if they had the chance. Don’t waste this privilege. Get out and vote.