Dear Non-Voter: An Open Letter to Those I Met on the Campaign Trail
Do you remember me?
Perhaps you don't. I'm not particularly memorable at first. With my sweaty t-shirt, khaki shorts, and tan hat, I probably didn't stand out from anyone else you met last summer. In fact, you probably don't even remember the conversation we had. Looking back, it was pretty short now that I think about it. Quick introductions, some small chit chat, and then I cut to the chase. We exchanged pleasantries at the end but we didn't exchange contact information. We both moved on, both anxious to get back to what we had been doing. Our brief minute-long interaction was one that most people wouldn't remember.
I remember every single detail. I remember you sitting outside the concert venue. I remember you entering the post office. I remember you waiting in line at the DMV. I remember you laughing at the tailgate before the season opener. I remember you approaching the supermarket. I remember you leaving the zoo. I remember you walking to class. I remember you entering the comedy show. I remember you purchasing fresh fruit at the farmers market. I remember you drinking a late night beer outside the bar. I even remember you opening your front door and giving me a quizzical look when I introduced myself. I remember you from all these places because of what you said.
"I'm not voting."
Three simple words that you said without giving them a second thought. Without giving me a second thought. Sure you heard my spiel, my plea, my attempted appeal to reason. But it didn't matter. My sound, logical argument didn't matter. You had your mind made up. You had your mind made up months or even years in advance. What I said to you on that hot summer morning, or afternoon, or evening didn't matter. You knew what you were going to do and you felt confident in sharing your intention with me. When we parted ways you didn't sigh with regret. You didn't reconsider your decision. You didn't call me back with a sudden change of heart. You simply and decisively chose not to engage in the democratic process.
After days like Tuesday, I think about you a lot.
I wonder what you're up to these days. Are you happy? Are you healthy? Are you employed? Is your job stable? Do you have health care? Are your children in school? In college? In debt? What about your spouse? Is he or she employed? Being paid fairly for work? Able to take time off for family or medical reasons? What about religion? Are you acting to help others less fortunate than you? Is your house of worship safe? Overall, is your life everything you hoped it would be?
I ask that last question because you already answered it last summer when you and I spoke. It wasn't a verbal question, but rather one that was implied through your actions. You see, when you told me you weren't voting, what I heard was that your life was perfect. By you not engaging in the local, state, or the national election, you were telling me that there was not a single thing in your life that you felt could be improved. Salary, benefits, health care, access to higher education, equal pay, medical leave, you name it and it could not be improved. I was honestly shocked that people existed whose lives were absolutely perfect but there you were, smiling at me and my clipboard filled with voter registration forms. By telling me you weren't voting, you were telling me that there is nothing in your life you would want to change.
I wonder if you still feel the same way after yesterday.
Maybe you aren't one of the 800,000 DREAMers. Maybe you aren't a transgender service member. Maybe you aren't from one of the countries affected by the proposed travel ban. Maybe you aren't one of the 22 million Americans who is terrified they'll lose their health insurance. Maybe you aren't a Muslim-American whose mosque has been vandalized. Maybe you aren't an African-American who has been racially profiled by police. Maybe you aren't a woman who has been passed over for a promotion by a less talented man. Maybe you aren't one of the millions of Americans horrified by the events in Charlottesville.
But maybe you are.
And if you are, well, what can I say? I tried to warn you. Hillary Clinton tried to warn you. African-Americans tried to warn you. Latinos tried to warn you. Asians tried to warn you. The Democratic Party tried to warn you. Super PACs tried to warn you. Democratic officials tried to warn you. Progressive churches tried to warn you. Unions tried to warn you. Progressive blogs tried to warn you. Historians tried to warn you. Despite all these warnings, you chose to ignore us all.
And you chose to do so because you are selfish. You didn't care that your non-vote would impact 320 million other Americans. Because they weren't you. Their potential pain and suffering wasn't worthy of your concern. Everything in your life was fine and dandy and so you assumed that everything was fine and dandy for everyone else. Either that, or you simply didn't care. You didn't care that your non-vote would hurt your Latino neighbor. You didn't care that your non-vote would hurt your Muslim doctor. You didn't care that your non-vote would hurt the local college ROTC cadet. You didn't care that your non-vote would hurt the fast food worker on minimum wage. You didn't care that your non-vote would hurt every single American who isn't rich, White, and straight.
So, here we stand ten months later. Days like Tuesday are becoming more common with each passing day causing vast suffering for an overwhelming portion of this country. This same portion of the country that, unlike you, actually cared enough to go out and vote like their life depended on it because their life literally depended on it. All they asked, all we asked of you, was to hear what we had to say and to simply go out and engage in the most fundamental act of our democracy.
But even the simple act of voting was beneath you. You couldn't be bothered to think of others and what they might be going through. You voiced a plethora of hollow excuses as to why you refused to become politically engaged. Your vote didn't matter. The result was a forgone conclusion. Both parties are the same. You didn't like either candidate. Nothing ever changes. No matter what reason you gave me, the ultimate irony was lost on you: your non-vote was actually a vote and it was a vote in favor for the guy who represented everything you had come to hate about politics.
We're here today because of you. Tuesday happened because of you. No matter what you told me last summer, your life, your community, and your country are unquestionably worse today than they were ten months ago. Your non-vote got us to where we are today and I hope, I hope that you finally realize just how important the basic fundamental process of voting is in this country.
And I hope that when I see you again in three years we will be having a much different conversation.
An Old Acquaintance
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