A few words on sacrifice
Over the weekend, long-delayed parliamentary elections were held in Afghanistan. The run-up to the vote was marred by the usual brutal violence from the Taliban and Islamic State. And yet, 2,500 candidates ran for office, including many women, and turnout was robust. As the BBC reported:
There was a crush of voters in the women's section. So many Afghans told us, "We won't let the Taliban win."
Just let that sink in. Women, the most oppressed sector of Afghan society, spit defiance in the face of death and turned out to vote to make their voices heard. There was a very good chance that Taliban agents would attack their particular polling place, and still they came out to cast a vote.
Compare that to this country, where in presidential elections only a bare majority of eligible voters cast ballots, while in midterm and local elections office-holders are elected by a minority of the electorate. Congressman John Lewis, who had his head smashed in to secure the vote for African-Americans, has been tweeting about the importance of voting to honor the sacrifice of those who came before. While people in other countries risk death to vote, people in this country won’t risk getting home a little late on election day.
Now, I’m not so churlish as to dismiss the barriers which exist to voting. From voter suppression to, yes, having a job, this country does not make voting easy. But, oddly enough, there’s a solution to that: voting.
If you want election day to be a holiday, then vote, and elect representatives who will follow your wishes. If you want to end voter suppression, then vote, and elect politicians who will put an end to Crosscheck. If you want to move the Overton window leftwards, then vote in office-holders who share your views.
But LL, they will whine, no one represents my beliefs. Then vote for the person who most closely aligns with you, and work on that person.
Citizenship in a democracy is one’s most important civic role. Presidents don’t rule us (although this one thinks he does). Senators don’t rule us. We rule ourselves. But by not voting, we abdicate that role, and then we are ruled rather than governed.
And we give up that role for the most trifling of reasons. If John Lewis can brave truncheons and dogs, we can certainly brave a wait in line. If Afghan women can fly against centuries of oppression, then we can pop a vote-by-mail ballot into the post.
Political life isn’t getting everything you want. That will never happen. It’s getting most of what you want, and being able to live without the things you thought were non-negotiable. Politics, as others wiser than me have said, is the art of the possible. But here’s the thing: what’s “possible” keeps changing due to an involved and informed electorate. In 1990, the thought of gay marriage was science fiction. Now it’s a reality. And that came about due to an engaged electorate. So no, you won’t achieve Paradise in one election. But over time, if you keep working at it, it’s astounding what you will achieve.
In ending, I implore you: Don’t give up your birthright. Being a self-ruled people is the one thing which the Founders left as our patrimony. When you give up your right to rule yourself, be assured that someone else will more than gladly rule over you.
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