There was a time just a few years ago when people in the US felt the world was relatively set and would continue largely as it was. People found meaning in their careers, not through political action. It was easy to be complacent.
If you had a home, enough to eat, owned a TV and watched it, and were absorbed by social and other digital media, it was easy to think any apparent crisis was just that—apparent, not real, more like a commercial interrupting the important stuff.
I read an article yesterday in the Intelligencer by Rachel Bashien, Zak Cheney-Rice, Amelia Schonbek and Emma Whitford entitled: “12 Young People on Why They Probably Won’t Vote.” These young people were clearly responding not only to the reality developing when they were growing up but to the election of T.
“2016 was such a disillusioning experience,” one said. They were disheartened by the election results. They saw their ideals shot down. And now many of them have trouble motivating themselves to take action. Only an inspirational leader could motivate them to act, but the Democrats are just not inspirational.
Other sources say our young adults are more likely to vote than in previous years. According to MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi, an NBC News poll of GenForward Millenials found that 31% are planning to vote, 26% probably will vote. That doesn’t sound very good, but it’s up from 19% in 2014.
Let’s examine the implications of the way of thinking spelled out in the article. They, we, didn’t get what we wanted, so why act now? We failed once; why try again?
It would be better, more fun, to go back to TV, entertainment, and to social media and forget about the world outside our imagination.
This way of thinking robs us of power. It places the responsibility for what happens inside us on something or someone external to us. I wrote a blog just a month ago about how people in a love relationship can attribute their own feelings of love to the loved one, and thus make themselves feel powerless. Or they think, when they feel anger, the person they are angry at will suffer from their anger. They therefore let their belief blind them to the reality of how they suffer from their own anger.
Likewise, instead of learning how to participate more effectively in politics, we let ourselves feel powerless about effectively influencing the political reality. We mistakenly think we need someone else to inspire us, and that we ourselves are not strong enough to do so.
For too long, too many people did not vote. Too few participated actively in government and we allowed too much money to shift into too few hands. We allowed public education, our courts, and voting systems to be undermined and districts gerrymandered because we couldn’t believe it was happening. We allowed our sense of reality, of history to be undermined. We developed a false sense of what democracy entails.
After we recover from the shock, pain, and anger from the violence of last week, we need to let it wake us up to the need for action and political change.
Democracy is, in many ways, like a love relationship. It continues only with adequate care, loving action and being real about what is going on. For a relationship to continue, we have to be real about the origin of our own feelings, real about whom the person is we love.
For a democracy to continue, we don’t vote only if we are inspired to do so. We don’t vote only if we can get the exact bill we think is best or a candidate perfectly reflects our views.
We vote in order to protect our power to vote. We vote to have a voice, so our lives and well-being will be considered relevant. We vote so we will have rights. We vote so we can’t be jailed just for speaking the truth or shot or run over for being a certain religion, color, or gender. We vote because we care about the world and our neighbors.
We vote because it is the right thing to do. We act because it is the right thing to do.
If we vote only to get what we want, then if we lose, we give up. We might give up if we don’t get all of what we want or we don’t feel there is a “perfect” candidate. We then don’t learn how to act with more power in the future and how to perceive and care about others with more clarity.
The powerful want us to give up. We can’t let them have that. We can’t let them trick or disillusion or frighten us into powerlessness.
So, on Tuesday, let us vote. Let us vote not just to win (and we must do everything we can so we do win, without resorting to deception and cruelty), but also to learn how to be even more humane and effective next time.
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