Inequality, Polarization, and the Importance of Casting Your Vote

Inequality and polarization are plaguing our society, ripping apart the fabric of this nation. It is not an isolated problem and all of us are part of this and need to take responsibility for where we are. What are we going to do about it? Vote. Simply vote. We all need to exercise our democratic right to cast our ballots on November 8th in the midterm elections and vote for what is important to each of us. Vote your conscience, vote for the change you want to see happen. Is it a change in politics, a different kind of society? You vote for what you want to see reflected in the country we live in. This is your democratic right, and indeed, your responsibility.

This is an important time in our country right now. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you are on, you need to have your voice heard. To not exercise that right is to be complicit in a faltering democracy and to agree with the status quo. One thing hopefully we can agree on, regardless of politics, is the importance of bringing people back together, healing the division in our country and making sure that we are electing people representing community interests and that those elected to positions of power are working to make society better for all of us. Democracy just doesn’t happen. We consciously need to think about what we want and actively build democracy up and preserve it. Democracy cannot exist if people just accept the status quo and don’t participate in it. If we don’t take part, we are at risk of losing it. This is what makes our country different from authoritarian types of government where people are just told and/or coerced into doing what is preferable for those in charge.

What does it mean to be in a democracy and what are our responsibilities as citizens participating in a democratic government? Clearly, voting is a primary way of participating in a democracy but we can’t stop there. We can also have our voices heard when we contact our senators, congressmen and women and State officials to tell them how we feel and outline our concerns about issues important to us. The people we elect are elected to represent each of us, not just those that voted for them on the ballot paper but all those in the locality, State or country. This is a profound responsibility and it is up to each of us to ensure that these elected officials are representing us in the right way and are held to account where necessary.

The importance of voting and the environment in which this midterm is of significant importance. There is deep political polarization, division, and contempt for the ‘other’. We have choices to make. Do we want to keep things the way they are, do we want more of what is happening, or do we want to move back a bit from the brink of what is currently taking place in our country? For change to take place we need to choose people who are going to represent our communities with an open mind, want to work with others where progress can be achieved, and are willing to take us down a different and more inclusive path. That is the choice we will have to make on November 8th

Our country is unique because of the rights we have that democracy affords us. These rights are not universal. There are places where you can’t vote, or your vote is not counted or your vote doesn’t matter or your vote cannot have an impact on society. This is not the case in the United States. The action of voting is so important, something that we need to cherish and something we certainly do not want to lose. Every American citizen has a right to vote and should be encouraged and allowed to vote. No US citizen has more of a right to vote than another and we should all embrace that right. It does not matter if you are voting Republican or Democrat, from a red state or a blue state, your right to vote is equal to anyone else’s right to vote.

Attempting to prevent others from voting who are legally entitled to vote would be denying them their rights in a democratic society. What happens on November 8th will impact the course of our nation over the next few years and beyond. If you don’t use your vote for what you truly want to see in your society, there is a good chance that your vote isn’t going to matter next time, or your vote will become irrelevant. This comes back to the idea of what a democracy is all about, and in the words of Abraham Lincoln when giving the Gettysburg Address, can we support a “government of the people, by the people, for the people, (which) shall not perish from the earth”. This is what our government was intended to be and therefore we should use our right to vote and seek the change that we are looking for.

Democracy is fragile, never more so than today, and many people may not truly understand what a democracy is or will have taken it for granted which is reflected when you don’t exercise your right to vote. What is implicit in this is that you are assuming that someone else is going to speak on your behalf and vote for the democracy you hold dear. We also need to think about how the actions of the politicians that we are voting for will affect our lives and the lives of the generations to come. To make an informed decision you have to know the facts and in order to know the facts you have to understand the source of information you are getting your facts from. Is it directly from the politicians themselves, from reliable sources where you can do your own fact-checking? It is sometimes hard to understand the truth of what is happening with all the noise, but it is all of your responsibility to do so. We can’t just listen to one source but we need to find those unbiased resources to enable us to do our own critical thinking and not let others decide for us. This is what is meant to participate in a democracy and to be responsible citizens. 

It takes commitment and work on all our parts so we can make clear judgments as to what is taking place in our country so we can make the right choices for the greatest good for all citizens living in this country. This doesn’t come easy and for some, it may be easier to let someone else do this for us but we can’t afford to be complacent and allow others to think for ourselves. We need to gather facts and be willing to talk to others who may not hold our same views to get a broader understanding of what may be best for all of us. This is what it means to actively participate in a democracy. We should recognize this as a privilege and something none of us should take for granted. A young democracy like ours is delicate and needs to be nurtured in healthy ways for it to grow in the ways it is meant to, an inclusive one which hears everyone’s voice and takes in the needs and concerns of all citizens here in the United States. If we allow this to grow and flourish then we will have a healthy democracy, a strong country that allows everyone to have a good life. 

When we truly understand the power of equality, we will all want to make sure that this is given to every one of us. When we recognize that we are all in this together and that by understanding and respecting one another we grow together in transformative ways. This is what truly makes our country great. We want to be able to live our lives in the way we want to live them, and to have the right to make our own decisions that will impact our families and our way of life. To do this we need to think, make our voices heard and of course get out and vote!