Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Gena Bigler: Don’t choose silence – make an informed choice, vote, be part of the solution
In 1989 I watched in my dorm as young and old Chinese citizens demanded the basic rights like freedom of speech. Remembering the image of a lone man standing in front of a tank still brings tears to my eyes. The following year, I was appalled by U.S. citizens choosing not to vote. The U.S. had a voter turnout of only 36 percent in 1990. In a democracy, our voice is our vote. When you choose not to vote, you are choosing silence. In a recent study, the U.S. had the lowest voter turnout of the 28 nations studied.
Why should you vote? Our elected leaders help set the agenda, determine what we as a nation define as important and what we will work on. Our politicians set policy and law that impact every aspect of our daily lives. The most obvious issues are often economic; like what taxes we pay, what minimum wage is allowed by law, whether employers are required to allow lunch or bathroom breaks. So if you work, take bathroom breaks and pay taxes you are already invested in what is happening in our country. If you want a say in what you pay, vote. If you want a say in what you are paid, vote.
Chatting with a friend at a party, he made a generalized snide comment about all politicians. I responded by explaining why in the information age it takes more courage than ever to run for office. We as a society randomly scrutinize candidates’ personal lives and openly criticize their children.
Public service has become blood sport. We denigrate the people we choose as leaders and then whine about how they can’t get anything done. If we want a strong nation, we need to support our leaders and question them on the issues, not their choice of designer. We need to demand that they represent us and that they know what we the people want.
Call your representative. If you don’t like the phone, email your representative. It’s easier today than ever before to let your desires and values be known. If you feel strongly about an issue, complaining to your neighbor won’t change anything unless your neighbor is your representative. Let your Rep. know when they take a stand you support. Let them know that when they take a stand on an issue they aren’t standing alone.
If someone really supports what you believe in, support their message by donating to the campaign. Huge corporate dollars are flooding campaigns and supporting corporate interests. Over 660 million dollars were raised by 961 ‘Super PAC’s.” It’s easy to think, my tiny contribution doesn’t matter, but it really does. Even one dollar can pay postage for several mailers. Just like every vote counts, so does every dollar. If we as citizens stop helping our candidates, the only message heard will be the one the Super PACs fund.
Voting is one of the most important things you can do as a citizen. Carefully weigh your options, look at all the issues, think about how the policy choices will impact you, your family, your neighbor. Make an informed decision and wield your power as a voter. Super PACs may spend all they like, but ultimately it’s only the votes that are counted that decide our path as a nation.
Soon, this election cycle will be over. We will have to pick up and move on as one nation. Be part of the solution. If you truly believe that there isn’t a candidate worth voting for, then run yourself or recruit someone you respect to run. Be involved in the process. Make an informed choice. Go vote. Run for office.
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.