Monday, October 29, 2012
So I called in to my favorite radio station, Vocalo.org 89.5 fm, this morning and tossed in my two cents about the sway of IN politics and voting in general. I posed the question that's been on my mind for a little while: uneducated/unknowledgeable voting vs purposeful not voting vs apathetic not voting. Michael Puente, Vocalo.org NWI man-on-the-street, said he doesn't buy the purposeful voting angle. That in the current climate of voter suppression and people in this country who want the right to vote, how could people with this right now use it? I spent the rest of my commute thinking about that. Am I being a careless citizen (in the same vein as a "careless white girl")? Am I taking for granted my privilege in this case? The answer is complicated, right? But here's what I've come up with.
I view the right to vote as a right to choose. People fought and died to be able to choose whether they could vote or not. True, some people don’t even have access to that right to choose. I’d rather spend my time fighting for their right to choose than placating to the idea that pressing a button is alpha and omega of my civic duty. Not voting isn't illegal in this country, yet, because that would be too dictatorial. But we do have that type of dictatorial sentiment in our society about voting. Vote or die. No vote, no voice. If you don't vote, you can't complain. Bulldoodie, I say!
I sell my labor every day, and every other week money is taken out of my wages, without my permission, to fund wars and bail out bosses, but not to fund things I personally believe in like safer sex curriculum in schools and Planned Parenthood. Fluff that, I have a voice because I participate in the commerce in this country.
Patriotic rhetoric denied.
My question is why is voting touted to be the pinnacle of political participation in this country when the most import things that affect our lives are never on the ballot? However, social initiatives that perpetuate discrimination are slipped in there, and used as justification to why people should vote. I don't think the residents of Gary, IN and Chicago, IL voted to have public schools closed, privatized, and hundreds of teachers and aids to be fired, contributing to an overall unsafe non-educational environment for their children. We don't get to vote if we go to war. We didn't vote for the corporate bail outs. People didn't cast one ballot to end apartheid in this country. But voting is everywhere, on Survivor, American Idol and its like-minded spin-offs, music video countdowns, radio countdowns, facebook polls, the symbolic, and often baseless, act is in every fascet of our leisure. Why?
If no substantial change in this country came about or was initiated by voting, if we can see, side by side, that the candidates for national office have very little difference between them, if as a person from a small NWI town can say that said down has gotten worse for the majority of the poor people that live in it, yet they vote everything there's an election, then why is such importance placed on this act? What else does voting do? Who does it advantage? We know the appearance, but what is the essence of voting? What would other towns like mine, or our country for that matter, look like if we felt the same way about direct political action, in any form? What if the patriotic rhetoric was, if you don't strike, you have no say. No boycott, no voice. Occupy our local school board or die. What would that type of city, town, state, or country look like? Here's a hint...it would look like this country, right around the time of the revolutionary war, but, you know, minus slavery, add a few years of feminist politics, and toss a veil over white classist racism by WASPs.
Now, what I’m about to say next will sound like a total contradiction to all that I’ve previously stated, but trust me it’s not. I am not advocating for people to not vote. That’s your choice so you make it. I am advocating for people to know what that vote means. Not the rhetoric, but really, what are you doing. More importantly, what are you being exempted from just by doing it. If voting is your only political participation, then I truly believe that you’re contributing to the ongoing problem in our society. If you can’t give a few minutes of your time for some sort of direct action, whether its making dinner for some out of work teachers, writing letters to the school board to really voice your opinion, honk your horn in solidarity of the striking big box workers, etc. then you’re making it very easy for the charade to go on. My wish is for everyone to do something that yields actual results, even if the result is just creating a tie between you and another human being through a show of support. Again, I challenge anyone to tell me what substantial change has happen solely as the result or initiated by voting. I’m all about being proven wrong, because at least I would have learned something. Being right on this doesn’t give me any particular joy unless it moves people to do...emphasis on do...something.