Long after the election is done, we will each have to live with the hurtful words we’ve thrown at each other about arrogant candidates who will never hear them.
Until recently, I had decided not to vote.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am an idealist, most so in the area of politics. I envision a society in which the rich are generous, the poor are empowered, and the powerful don’t abuse. In any system that is otherwise, I want no part. I know—I’m a dreamer.
Needless to say, our current system and the candidates we have to choose from sicken me. I’ve lost sleep over this election. I hate the arguments between family and friends over two would-be presidents who no one seems to be really thrilled with. I hate that we’re required to pick and choose which of our values are most important to us and then vote for someone who only pretends to represent those values. It’s a joke that isn’t funny.
But those aren’t the only reasons I had decided not to vote.
Teaching adults ESL in Abu Dhabi, I had students from every Arab country. The Iraqi students always made me nervous. I never knew how they might view the US or when they might tell me some disturbing fact about their war-torn life. And every time they did I had to face my guilt over having voted for the administration that was responsible for much of the turmoil. How could I look my students in the eye and tell them I voted for that?
So, I decided not to vote.
I’ve avoided the facebook rants, the debates, and any conversations about politics other than those between me and my husband alone. It’s been an interesting experience for Ray, entering the US as a new immigrant. He’s witnessing the ugliness of presidential elections live for the first time. His observations are honest and innocent.
While having one of our conversations the other day, I asked him, “If you could vote, would you?” His answer was an immediate “Yes.”
During the last presidential election I had a class of students from all over the world—China, Iraq, France, Morocco, and Egypt, just to name a few. I presented the candidates, explained their stance on the issues, and finally, let the students vote for the POTUS. They loved it.
I couldn’t help but think of them when Ray said yes. How could I look those students in the eye and tell them that I had the chance to vote but didn’t?
I have to vote. But I also have to try to not lose any more sleep. I’ve thought long and hard about this lately and I have come up with a few steps for voting and keeping my conscience intact:
1) Don’t kid yourself.
I’ve seen a lot of people siding with Clinton, Trump, or Johnson and, I guess due to some cognitive dissonance, convince themselves that their candidate of choice is actually sincere and has American’s best interest at heart. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’d all rest easier if we just admit that politicians will say anything to get to the top. If you tell yourself Clinton will remedy economic inequality, it’s wishful thinking. If you believe Trump will actually do anything to further the pro-life movement, you’re lying to yourself. If you think Johnson is less power hungry than the other two, you’re dreaming.
I’m facing the cold truth that this is a sad choice to make.
2. Get off facebook.
Long after the election is done, we will each have to live with the hurtful words we’ve thrown at each other about arrogant candidates who will never hear them. Don’t read the articles. Don’t share the articles. Don’t read, share, or write inflammatory posts. I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone else when I say that if you can’t check Facebook without getting pissed off at a friend or loved one, it might be a good idea to just avoid it until the election is over.
If I don’t respond to comments or messages for a while, this is why.
3. Choose a cause.
What is your reason for choosing your candidate? What do you find yourself complaining about the most? What are the issues that cause you to get angry?
When we answer these questions, we learn something about ourselves, and possibly realize something that our lives have been missing. There is a reason we all get so worked up about politics: it is an outlet for our unused passion. If The Liminalists exist for any reason, it’s this—to pinpoint that passion and put it to use. What’s yours?
4) Get off your ass.
What are your hot-button issues? Education? Volunteer to tutor underprivileged kids. Healthcare? Live healthier and help educate others to do the same. Abortion? Join a mentoring program and help prevent teen pregnancy. Volunteer at a pregnancy center or teach childcare classes. Gun control? Teach a gun safety class. Volunteer at a mental health support group. I could go on and on. My point is, don’t be surprised when your candidate of choice doesn’t further your cause if you’re unwilling to do it yourself.
I’m tired of empty words. How much of our time and energy are spent on political bickering that leads nowhere? Who we vote for is not nearly as important as what we vote for and our actions carry far more weight than the names we choose on a ballot. I’m talking to myself when I say, “It’s time to shut your mouth and get your hands dirty.”
Will you or won’t you?