Time to perform your civic duty

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Our American democracy[1] is in trouble.

In the past six years, we have watched a full-frontal assault on the objective truth, largely led by an unhinged narcissist propagating The Big Lie that our last presidential election was stolen, rigged to elect President Joe Biden.

If you believe this inane falsehood, you might want to stop reading now.

Meanwhile, the sound-minded voters on both sides of the political spectrum are feeling a certain amount of attrition as the country experiences a volatility and divisiveness that is drawing historical parallels with the Civil War-era[2].

It’s understandable that many voters in the wake of next Tuesday’s mid-term election might be weary and willing to leave control of Congress to the whims of the wing-nut lunatic fringes with the loudest mouthpieces.

But this is exactly the wrong time to succumb to weariness. There is too much at stake—particularly for female voters—to sit this one out and allow apathy to lull you away from the polls.

It is our collective civic duty—whether liberal or conservative, or part of the dying breed once called a “moderate”—to not only vote, but to research the candidates, from the U.S. senators to the state representatives[3], and think critically about whom aligns with your values and worldview.

Admittedly, it is also incumbent on public education—and, yes, I’m a public educator—to do a more thorough and comprehensive job teaching civics and assuring that future voters understand the importance of their civic duty.

For example, how many people voting next Tuesday could rattle off the first five amendments in The Bill of Rights[4]? How many could name the first five United States presidents? How many understand the role of The Fourth Estate?

That’s not meant to be disparaging. It is simply pointing out that we can do better when it comes to teaching civics and critical thinking, in general. If a voter can’t see through the manipulations of media propaganda, how can they make measured decisions when choosing the people to represent them?

And if a person consciously decides to not vote, it is their right and we must be respectful of it. However, said person is also not allowed to complain about public policies or castigate elected officials.

The real problem really lies with the voter who claims they don’t have the time to perform this civic duty—and, yes, I understand that some people’s work schedules make it near-impossible, and that’s another issue that needs resolving.

But anyone who has the time to play on their phone, binge a Netflix series or surf social media has the time to research the candidates, think critically about their decisions then go to the polls and vote[5].

Once upon a time, the curtains around the voting booths mattered, and we voted without pomp or ceremony. We voted with a belief that democracy works and if our chosen candidate lost, we got over it and respected the process.

Now it’s devolved to bare-knuckle boxing in the parking lots outside the polls. This needs to stop.

While I can assure you that the sun will rise on Wednesday morning, the world we view it from could be jarringly different.

__________

[1] I understand that many people believe we’re not a democracy at all. They believe we’re an oligarchy or a plutocracy, and there’s certainly a conversation to be entertained. There is also some veracity to the idea that there are no real differences between Republicans and Democrats, and politicians are bought and sold by the billionaires who own this country. The late-George Carlin puts this succinctly into what is sometimes referred to as “his best five minutes” of stand-up. But for this column, I am going to work off the premise that we are still functioning as a constitutional republic.

[2] By the way, it requires a nifty amount of selective amnesia to believe that the country hasn’t always been divided. It has.

[3] In many ways, the neighbors you elect to represent you in your hometowns will have a more direct impact on your day-to-day lives.

[4] Immigrants, however, need to learn these facts to pass the citizenship exam.

[5] I also realize that some districts make it so voters have to wait in obnoxiously long lines as means of disenfranchising them. This also needs to be addressed.


 

About this Author

nathan-graziano

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Fly Like The Seagull was published by Luchador Press in 2020. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com