November 04, 2004

Thoughts about voting

After the terrible loss we incurred yesterday, I felt rather down as did dozens of my friends who had vested so much energy in this election.

An Belgian-American friend wrote me the following message: "I'm sorry you became a citizen for this... It's just embarrassing."

Thanks, that's really reassuring. I also received a beautiful email about becoming newly American from my Greek-Turkish-American friend. I would like to share.

"Well, my friends, today was an important day for me, because I voted for the first time in my life. As you know, I came here 20 years ago, and two years ago I became a US citizen, ready to cast my ballot in one of the most important elections for the US and the World.

In the days leading up to this day, I did what I thought a citizen should do. I read every article on current events, I listened to the news, I debated issues with friends and yes, I voiced my opinion. This morning, I woke up at 6:00 am (quite early for me) and literally felt as if I was going on a camping trip. I was energetic and ready to experience something for the first time. I took my voting registration card, and drove to the voting place, just couple of minutes from my home.

As I was waiting for my turn to cast my vote, I observed the people who waited to do exactly the same thing. The people seemed to be from all over the world; different races, nationalities and educational backgrounds (I live in a very diverse community in Maryland). In front of me there was a gray hair guy in a suit, a federal employee working for EPA (he was reading EPA reports). Behind me, there was an Indian couple talking about the sample ballot they received in the mail. Next to me there was a large Hispanic family reading about the candidates on a pamphlet and talking at the same time. A little further away my African American neighbor waved at me. At that moment, a great thought came to mind. Today, despite all our differences, maybe it is the only day, that all of us were equal in that room. No matter what we looked like and how rich and educated we were, each one of us had the same power. One person, one vote. At that time, I decided to write to all of you and share my thoughts.

After I voted, I went home and did a quick Google search to see what our great Ancient Greek philosophers had to say about voting, since they were so involved in politics and we admire them so much.

Well, Plato thought that most people were pretty stupid, and so they should not be voting about what to do. Instead, the best people should be chosen to be the Guardians of the rest (you see, he was coming from an aristocratic family). I disagree with him.

Aristotle said: “full excellence can be realized only by the mature male adult of the upper class, not by women, or children, or barbarians (non-Greeks), or salaried "mechanics" (manual workers) for whom, indeed, he did not want to allow voting rights. I definitely disagree with him as well.

Here’s my thought. I believe voting is a right, privilege and an obligation of any citizen of a democratic country, and it should not be taken for granted. If we expect the country to serve us and fulfill our demands and needs, this is one of our chances to ask for it. When we vote, there is a feeling of empowerment that we carry with us for the next four years. Certainly, if we decide to be vocal and voice our opinion about the government and its policies - and as you know, I’m not shy doing that – then we must exercise the right to act on our beliefs. Voting is an act that empowers us and gives legitimacy to our voice.

This has been a very positive experience that I believe will empower me to continue voicing my opinion – because I can’t do without- and hopefully the world will be a better place.


Bring tears to my eyes.


Anonymous said...

Hey, hey, hey: Belgian-Franco-American citizen, s'il vous plait!
Actually, I consider myself Belgian-Franco-Washingtonian now. 90% of us voted for Kerry! And we have no representation in Congress...
Free DC!!

Congogirl said...

That email is wonderful. Her experience demonstrates the ideal scenario, and I wish more people thought it was their responsibility and obligation to vote. We take it for granted in the US now, even women, who gained suffrage less than 100 years ago. In India, an overwhelming percentage of the population votes, but they also have days (plural) off in which to do it. And they probably still believe in bringing about change.

007 in Africa said...

Can you believe that French women only had the right to vote in 1946? 1946! That's just plain ridiculous. Well, I plan on amending this by voting in every single election, French and American (as I say this, I am blushing, remembering how I did not vote in the last French presidential election--I'm ashamed).

Congogirl said...

Don't be ashamed! At least you voted in the US. People who didn't vote in even that election should truly be ashamed. One good thing about all this press is that we are motivated to do what we can to change. If you are interested, I can send you some links to basically do email campaigning. Maybe I will post them on my blog...

Anonymous said...

Hey Dorothée,
here's an interesting link, if your Internet access is fast enough:

007 in Africa said...

Hi Magali, fortunately, my email connection is very fast. Loved the link. BTW, I still haven't gotten around to it (because I'm stressed out and have a proposal due in 5 days) but I really enjoyed seeing your dad and having dinner with him. I didn't have a change to read the books you sent through him. Ah, the perils of working in a development agency--too much work.