Dear frustrated humans expressing or contemplating boycotting their right to vote,
I want to start off by saying that on the surface, I understand your frustration. The sensationalized, especially controversial election is discouraging. The candidates degrading each on stage, daily scandals and caps-locked Twitter battles have you feeling pretty hopeless about your potential options for president. You hate the opposing party, your own party, everyone on Facebook and basically any person in any regard that brings up politics at any moment. Like I said, I get it. It feels way too easy to just say, “Forget this shit, I’m not voting. I don’t want to be a part of this.”
First, I want to remind you that deciding not to vote because you don’t want to contribute to an unfit candidate being elected doesn’t negate your responsibility. If anything it makes you more responsible, because you didn’t do anything about it.
What I want to do is demonstrate the importance of your vote. This isn’t about politics or whether you believe in the same things as I do, frankly I don’t really care. What I want is for you to actually consider the depth of your right to vote, and I’ll start by talking about a few groups you probably fit into.
Are you one of the following: A minority, a woman, the middle class, someone who believes in a non-protestant religion, an American citizen, an immigrant or my personal favorite, a human being? If so, someone has fought like crazy for you to have a say in this country that you want to throw away.
Let’s start from the very beginning, I’m talking Revolutionary War beginning. April 19, 1775 – May 12, 1784 (8 years, 8 months and 26 days) was how long it took to create a place founded for the people and governed by the people. That’s how long it took for 50,000 men to die from battle, capture and disease for the place you live in to ever exist. During that time the Declaration of Independence was signed, officially granting the first voting rights. But in 1776 it was a legal privilege only available to white, property-owning, Protestant men. So, even after all of the bloody battles, you most likely wouldn’t fit into that group of permitted voters.
Up until 1828 you could be male, white, property-owning and filthy rich, but if you were Jewish or a non protestant religion it didn’t matter, you couldn’t vote.
Up until 1856 your commonly discussed issues of standing up for the poor and middle class were irrelevant because unless you were wealthy or owned property, there were still places in this country you couldn’t vote.
What if you’re a woman? Women in history have fought tirelessly to gain the right to vote and a voice they so desperately deserved. Women were the first group in US history to protest the White House and more than 500 women were arrested in 1917 and 1918 for doing just that. Women like Elizabeth Cady Staton gave everything for your choice. Women like Susan B. Anthony dedicated their lives to a cause that would enable the women of the future. Because she died before she ever got the chance to vote.
What if you’re an African American? There are no words that could possibly depict the battle waged for your right to respect, advocacy and equality in this country. All the years of violence and segregation fought against for civil rights meant something unfathomably important. One of these civil and critical rights is the ability to contribute a vote without any kind of barrier. Grandparents and parents still knew a world where the US government purposefully tried to discourage the African American vote with tactics like literacy tests.
What if you’re an immigrant or another minority race? What if you’re disabled? Laws fighting for your right to vote have been so incredibly recent and fresh that the wounds of those around you haven’t even healed from years of being discounted.
People fought so hard for something you so easily want to throw away like it’s nothing.
“Ok. But my one vote doesn’t matter anyway.”
Wrong. False. Incorrect. It does count. It first counts by a matter of respect and principle. It counts for all the fellow Americans before you who would have, and actually did, do absolutely anything to have the rights that you do today in 2016.
It also counts numerically in some senses, if that’s really what you need to justify a few hours of your time to contribute. In the primaries at the beginning of the month Senator Sanders won the county of Methuen in Massachusetts by, wait for it, ONE VOTE. 3,409 to 3,408. Though this county didn’t edge his win in a tight race against Hilary Clinton, that could have been the case.
I understand statistically speaking you could eliminate the validity of your vote. But a mindset is far more powerful when adopted at scale. How do you think you even have the right to vote? A few people thought against the masses and decided their opinion mattered. They fought for it, and the way that you can fight for it is by voting.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Dismiss your anger and empower yourself and others to contribute. You’re a small flame with the potential to light a fire in the hearts of those around you that spreads wildly. So many people fought for us and for this moment. It’s time we fight for them too, and for the future of this country.
To register to vote, visit https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote
Why every vote counts: Sanders wins Methuen by a single ballot
National Women’s History Museum
National Women’s History Project