Those who think their vote doesn’t count are half right. A significant number of Americans who are eligible to vote, do not vote. Of those, a common explanation is that their vote doesn’t count. There is some truth to this statement. Not voting is a vote. If one does not vote, they have voted, because all initiatives, measures, and candidates win or lose based on the number of those who do vote. To deny inserting one’s voice in the selection process is a rejection of one’s participation. In not voting, we are casting a vote for the outcome based on the voice of those who do vote.
Why do so many believe that their voice and vote do not matter? We will explore this question further throughout our pilgrimage. Our first response is one we have heard from many of those with whom we are speaking. We are hearing a generalized feeling of mistrust and lack of faith in the government.
Yet, many of these same individuals want uplift that can only come from the government. We want good jobs where we can offer our children hope for the future, we want to be free of economic insecurity, we desire access to excellent health care, and to excellent public education for all our children. These are just some of the many, many needs and desires we share, that are met by a strong and robust government– a government that is democratic.
And yet we are suspicious of government or downright don’t like government. The contradiction between not liking government and yet liking and relying on the programs a democratic government provides is a serious contradiction that if not addressed, may well contribute to our own demise. Why would somebody who needs and wants health care, neighborhood safety, and economic security not want to vote and take part in making decisions about jobs– so that our jobs stay in our country and are not sent overseas?
Why would someone who needs health care, a knee replacement, or preventative care for children, oppose having their voice direct our government to fund excellent health care for all?
We think there are several reasons for this. The first is the great deal of ideological propaganda that is pumped into our communities through media outlets, TV’s, and online programming. A lot of this messaging carries strong anti-government points of view which are consistently put forward. Many of us have negative experiences with government services and perpetuate this view as if weaknesses in the systems of government could only be answered by the elimination of government. Even some organizations and faith-based groups put forward the notion that government is harmful to the people.
Another explanation is that we live in a society that values personal gain over human needs and friendship. More and more we live in isolation from one another, even though we are physically with one another in our schools, on the street, in stores, and shopping malls. We live in a society where we’ve permitted the dream to become a dream of personal space. We think that we can be parishioners, students, neighbors, and coworkers as if on an island, separate from one another and our shared mutual lives.
For more of us to vote, some of us will have to change. We’ll have to let go of somethings. Perhaps it is the amount of time we spend on personal comfort. Perhaps it is the amount of screen time. And, we’ll have to add some things. We’ll have to add to our lives, intentfully, doing some things with others. Baking, making things for the common good, growing community gardens together, volunteering together in the community. We will need to find ways to gather together to gain the knowledge of how to participate in civic engagement and how and why to vote.
We can do this. Our nation requires us to do it. Our culture and growth as a people requires us to do it. Our democracy requires us to do it.
This can be done. Let’s get busy.