Do Something: Our Civic Duty


In 1994 I cut out a picture from the New York Times, and it’s been on my bulletin board ever since. Shot by Jack Corn, the image is of a shack in a dry, scrabby field on the edge of some woods. Next to the shack is a portable toilet. A man wearing a trucker cap walks toward the shack. The caption reads: Davenport, Ky. Election officials set up a portable toilet next to a remote polling place. I love this picture and wish I could show it to you here (I tried scanning it, but it’s too faded); it speaks volumes about how much voting means by reminding us that some people have to go to a certain amount of trouble to do it.

I’m pretty passionate about voting. It’s almost religious for me. (Truth: when I was about 13 years old, I dressed as a voting booth for Halloween.) The sad thing is that it’s been years since there was a candidate I could really get behind–at least, one who also had a chance of winning. I’m convinced that our corporate-owned two party system is seriously broken (see Julius Nyerere quote), and sometimes I think that we’ll never get it right. But no matter how many times my of-the-people-by-the-people heart breaks, no matter how many times I’ve tried and failed to adequately broker peace between pragmatism and idealism, I continue to believe in voting.

Now, I don’t make a habit of telling people what they should do. But if you’re a citizen and of voting age, you should vote. Even if you don’t like the candidates. Even if you feel hopeless about politics and politicians. You should vote.

Why? I’m glad you asked! Because there are still too many places in the world where people have no say in how their governments work, in who is in charge, in the drafting of laws and policies that impact their lives. In this country today there are people who were alive when when women didn’t have the right to vote. Around the world, and throughout history, people have put their freedom and their lives on the line for that right. Right now, as I write this, as you read it, there are people suffering in prisons in Burma because they have stood up to a brutal dictatorship to call for the right to vote. In the U.S., we have that right, and too often we take it for granted. And so you must vote. Because not doing so is a slap in the face of the ones who didn’t have the right and the ones who still don’t, the people who fought and the people who are still fighting for the right to cast a ballot, the suffragists who sacrificed for their right to participate in our participatory government, the men and women imprisoned in Burma, and everyone in Davenport, KY who had to make a real effort, perhaps missing work, arranging for child care, walking miles, to get to that remote polling place.

If you can’t in good conscience vote for anyone who’s running in a particular election–which, believe me, I understand–write in the name of someone you would like to see in the office in question. Click the clicker, push the button, pull the lever, punch the damn chad. And vote. Vote. November 2nd. Vote.

Project Vote Smart is a great resource for U.S. voters, providing comprehensive, unbiased, non-partisan information about the political process, elected officials, candidates, etc.

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2 Responses to Do Something: Our Civic Duty

  1. Amir Bey says:

    1. Halloween: I’ll be wearing a selection from my new mask series.
    2. Julius K, Nyerere makes me proud to be a Pisces.

  2. And will you be voting? 🙂

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