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2012 Election, Democracy

Voting Is The Easy Part…

I don’t vote. Period.

Especially for elections that aren’t local.  And yes that would include our dear old presidential election.

But that’s not really important right now.  Don’t get me wrong, I do have my reasons.  And on this election day of November 6th, 2012, I can make a very credible argument as to why it makes sense NOT to vote, if you really do care about finding solutions to issues like poverty, inequality, corporate abuses, institutional failure, climate change, environmental justice, health, food systems, civil liberties, military adventurism, education, gun control, crime, war on drugs, and high incarceration rates (to name a select few). And by solutions, I mean, not just incremental improvements (at best), but exploring ways to attack root causes which manifest themselves as many of the societal maladies listed above.

But that’s for another day two or, more likely, four years from now. Because by the time you read this, it’s quite likely that you’ve already voted…and if you haven’t, I’m pretty sure whatever I say right here, right now is not going to deter you from fulfilling what almost everyone has told you is your civic duty.

Ah yes…civic duty. Isn’t it blasphemous for me to make the conscientious decision to exercise my right to vote by not doing so at all?

I’ve been asked that many times in some variation or another…and my response is thus…

While it may come as a surprise, voting is not the culmination of civic duty which one should pat themselves on the back for. I know you get a button or a sticker for doing so – like it’s third grade or something – but voting is quite possibly the EASIEST of civic duties one can perform.

In fact, the real (and thus, hard) work comes before and after election day. Ironically, corporate interests already know this. That’s why lobbying probably influences our government more than political campaign donations.  But for you and me, that hard work includes living the change that one expresses they want on election day. It means dedicating yourself to a cause, educating yourself about it, and carving out time and energy to fight for it. It means advocating for change and genuinely engaging and listening to those communities and people that you wish to assist and support. It means honestly examining how your day-to-day actions (work and play) do or do not positively impact the issues you said were important to you before you entered the voting both. And then it means modifying those actions as necessary.

What it doesn’t mean is disappearing into your own world only to reappear four years later. Let me put this the starkest way I know how (i.e., see the picture to the left).  If she can do it, you know it has to be easy.  For instance, one may say that they have fulfilled their civic duty by voting for Barack Obama because he’s expressed concern over climate change…and then go back to driving their gas guzzling car and eating their gas guzzling agricultural products. Contrast that with someone who doesn’t vote, but works tirelessly to educate the public on the issue of climate change, to push governments and companies to improve their environmental standards, to advocate for change within lower income and minority communities impacted by environmental injustices (such as those affected by Hurricane Sandy and Katrina), and to find ways to personally reduce their own carbon footprint (And yes, I do know someone like that).

Which person did more to fulfill their civic duty?

In my opinion, if we limit our civic participation to elections, that is tantamount to getting on a bus in New York because the driver declared it was headed southbound, taking an Ambien or two and hoping you get to your desired destination in Miami. Not only is it unlikely that you reach Miami since the bus driver won’t know you’re going there unless you say so and give him directions, you won’t even know where you are and why you didn’t get to Miami until you wake up hours (or in this case, four years) later.

So, all I ask is that you please remember that regardless of who you vote for today, if you have genuine concern for others, today is the easy part. The hard work is being done everyday. And whether, you, I or he or she votes or not, we all need to do the hard work together.

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