In case you have been living in a cave that doesn’t have WiFi or cell phone service, I am here to tell you that the United States is holding an election in two days. Shocking, right? Mailboxes across the country have been stuffed with political flyers. Dozens of ads run every hour on television channels. Close to $1,800,000,000 will have been spent on the Presidential race alone. (Typing that number made me want to hurl. Think about what that kind of money could do if used for things like…oh…helping victims of hurricane Sandy.)
I admit that I like being a United States citizen. I believe in the process, flawed as it may be. To me, voting isn’t only a right or a privilege, it is an obligation. People have fought and died for that right. Not voting would be like saying their sacrifice doesn’t matter. And it does.
So, every election cycle I do my research top to bottom. I know who the candidates in the national, state and local elections are. I look at their voting records or the candidate’s past work history and experience. I listen to the things they say they believe in, filter out the stuff that sounds great, but can never get done (kind of like the high school student council candidate promising cars for everyone) and make a judgment call based on who I think is most qualified to handle the sheer madness that comes with being a government official.
Maybe it’s just me, but this year it seems harder to discover what candidates stand for. Instead, my mailbox, answering machine and television are filled with angry ads telling me how evil the other side is. They are going to raise my taxes, destroy my child’s hope of an education and take away all possibility of medical attention for people like my grandmother.
Every time I see those messages I wonder, why anyone would think I’d pay attention to what the negative advertisements say. First off, it makes me think that the person behind the ad (not necessarily the candidate, since so many of the ads are paid for by PACs) is just mean-spirited. Second, it annoys me that someone wishes me to vote out of fear instead of an embracing of ideas. What good can possibly come out of that?
All parties (or the parties who have enough money to use these advertising tools) utilize negative ads. Clearly, they must be working for people to continue to plaster them across our airwaves. And that fact alone makes me angrier than any other.
Never have I had an opportunity to vote for a candidate who I agree with on every issue, which is good. Voting isn’t just about what is good for me—a redhead who lives in the Midwest. It’s about what’s good for people who live in deserts and on coastlines, who are recent immigrants or whose families can be traced back to the Mayflower. This country is bigger than just me and my needs. And yet, though that is true, even more wonderful is the knowledge that this country only runs if people like me go to the polls and vote.
Every vote counts. Everyone gets a say in what they believe in. With that in mind, today, I encourage all my fellow citizens to ignore the fear and anger that fills the rhetoric we hear and instead embrace the true reason we vote. Because we matter. A vote based on ideas – no matter if we vote for the winning candidate—matters. And when the election is over and the votes have been counted, I challenge all my fellow citizens to be proud of the results. Your candidate may not get the job, but by voting you and all of us who live in the United States of America have won.