The Privilege, the Honor, the Responsibility
We have a very smart friend, an American, who never votes. He excuses his laziness with an intricate, self-negating argument that equates voting with an endorsement of a broken and fraudulent process. Like many citizens of this great country, my friend hasn’t traveled very much, and never to a place we would call a “third-world” nation, where the liberties we take for granted — like free speech, due process, and complete suffrage — are devoutly longed for dreams, the spoils of far more fortunate societies.
What non-voters don’t recognize, it seems, is the beautiful symbolism of casting a vote in a free election. One person, one vote: The pauper and the millionaire, no matter their usual differences, are worth exactly the same at the ballot box. Color, religion, sex, class — all that typically divides us becomes irrelevant at the polling place. Your vote is worth the same as mine, and mine as Bill Gates, and his as a welfare mother’s. In a country that frequently fails to deliver on its promise of equality for all, our elections reaffirm the principles that allegedly make the United States of America a better and more civilized land than the absolute monarchies and dictatorships around the globe.
Afghanistan had their first democratic election this week. Despite “irregularities” in the process, the citizens of this long-interred nation expressed unbridled joy at having a personal stake in the future of their country. (Many Afghanis braved foul weather and the specter of violence to cast their vote.) One school principal, who endured Soviet occupation, a civil war, and the spirit-crushing cruelty of the Taliban regime said, when he voted, “In my fifty years, I have never felt as fortunate as I did yesterday.”
To decline the opportunity to vote is an act of supreme callousness. When given a treasured gem, only a spoiled child flushes the jewel down the toilet.