I was sitting with a group of people last night after watching a movie, having a real nice talk about Turkey, England, Australia, the United States and as it usually occurs the conversation eventually made its way to politics. We discussed the current political climate in the states and of course the all important question surfaced: “Did you vote?” One’s answer to the question will either make you a part of the club, or it will shut you out completely. It’s not really a question at all, it’s a straight up “Join us or die.”
I chose to be honest even though I knew what was coming and said that I didn’t vote. The disgust in their faces and the distortion of it was a lot more entertaining to witness than the animated movie we had just watched. The tone in the voice of one particularly opinionated person in the room reflected that utter disgust mixed with deadly judgment. “You shouldn’t have an opinion about politics if you don’t vote!” she spat at me and she went on about how people who don’t vote really shouldn’t be talking about politics.
So basically we just had an intelligent conversation about political happenings, but as soon as they find out that I don’t vote there is protest and we seem to forget about the stimulating discussion we were having up to that point.
Telling someone that they are not entitled to an opinion because they do not vote, does not motivate that person in any way to want to vote which is counterproductive if vote is what you want them to do. If anything, maybe that person just does not feel ready to vote because they are not informed enough, which is why they engage in political discussions in the first place in order to better formulate their thoughts and positions, which could later add to an informed decision and action or non-action.
Also, I’m sure many agree that voting is a very big decision, which is why this kind of thing should not be rushed. Rushing it would only create a sizable army of zombie voters who do not know what the hell they are voting for or why (ring a bell?), only that they have to because it is their civic duty.
Now, we may have different views on what civic duty means. Society gives us all a wonderful sense of what civic duty to vote is but the reality of how civic duty is understood and acted upon by the voter population is really different and rather subjective like all else.. “I performed my civic duty, I’m in the club!” is the attitude I see. What club you ask? I’m talking about the club of people who perform any kind of social normative rituals or actions in order to feel as part of the dominating group so as to not be an outsider and have to deal with harassment or bullying which in this case would come from not voting. That’s the worst kind of voter, and to vote just because it is a “civic duty” is not good enough. To perform one’s civic duty one should be informed, politically engaged, uncompromising with one’s own values in any way and most important of all feel one hundred percent sure about the decision to support a system which claims governance over a people. I would argue that there is a huge portion of the voter population that does not fit this description of civic duty, yet they compromise and vote. Civic duty has come to mean exactly what I mention in the first paragraph (the join us or die bit.) It is a tool that projects pressure to be of the collective for the sake of being included. It is a phrase thrown around to belittle people and shame them for not doing as you would do or have them do, for not being a part of the voters club.
It is comfortable to belong to any group, especially a group of “good Americans” who vote. So if you vote because you think that it makes you a better person or a better American, think again. You would find that perhaps abstaining from voting makes you a better American, that is if you are a zombie voter, if you’ve succumbed to the flawed civic duty craze, and if you find hesitation in voting for a system that contradicts your values in any way.
Lastly, for those who like to accuse eligible non-voters of laziness, the physical task of going to a voting booth is easy, so to assume all non voters are lazy and to go as far as to actually vocalize your opinion of them as lazy is really ignorant. It takes some people more time than others to really get a solid stance on their views. That might be reason why so many voters tend to be older. They’ve had time to figure out what party to support or not, if they do decide to vote at all. Some people like myself like to take our time with such important decisions and the fact that people like myself are engaging in political discussion in the first place should be seen as a good thing and should not be discouraged from participating in said arena.