Use it or Lose it
U.S.Census bureau reports that a mere 60% of all eligible voters
voted in the last presidential election. Compare that to the 95%
which turned out in the recent U.S.-sponsored recall election in
Venezuela! When was the last time you saw a mile-long line waiting
to vote in THIS country, which pretends to be a democracy, a government
"...of the people, by the people, and for the people?"
observation attributed to Plato goes like this, "One of the
penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end
up being governed by your inferiors." Americans who refuse
to vote are abrogating their civic responsibility. Hiding behind
that weak defense of poor citizenship "Its a free country,
I don't have to vote if I don't want to" does not cut it for
me. Saying that "There is no difference between the parties,
so why vote? " does not get it, either. If you are a citizen
and don't take part in running what we so proudly call a "democracy,"
then you deserve what you get when you get sick without health insurance,
get drafted and go off to fight in an unjust war, lose your jobs
due to bad government policies, or have your freedoms taken away
one by one. Unfortunately, YOUR lack of participation affects me,
too, and I DON'T deserve it!
have tried forced participation in elections. You might expect that
in some totalitarian countries where rigged "show elections"
with 100% - turn-out are the rule, but even civilized countries
like Australia have tried fining citizens who refuse to take responsibility
for holding up their end of the bargain implicit in being a citizen.
It doesn't work very well, and most places that have tried it have
abandoned it. So what is the answer?
When I think
of the peoples who have never had democracy, and who have fought,
bled, and died to get the vote, I am shamed by the cavalier attitude
so many Americans have towards voting. It scares me to think that
Americans care so little about their country as to abandon their
precious say in how it is run.
I am sure that
it will come as no surprise to most folks that our government is
into supporting what big business perceives as the "national
interest." Money talks. It gets you elected. These big business
interests that have invested in other countries and which draw off
their wealth and profit from cheap labor there are willing to spend
millions of your tax dollars to send military aid and even troops
to make sure their businesses are not "nationalized",
or taken over by a head of state that feels the profits from a country's
natural resources or value of the work done there should be used
for the benefit of the people in that country, who are often poor
and landless. Big multinational corporations want to control the
world for profit, and though their "bought-and-paid-for"
government mouths a commitment to "democracy and freedom"
its actions belie that hypocrisy. We don't practice it here...how
can we pretend to support it elsewhere?
are endless of our efforts to keep democracy from happening around
the world. Some of the most egregious cases include the Vietnam
War, fought to keep the people there from having free elections.
They would have elected Ho Chi Minh. Eisenhower prevented elections
because a fair vote would have elected an avowed communist! (Is
a dictatorship imposed by the United States democratic, and a fairly
elected communist government undemocratic?) The US backed despots
in places like the Philippines, Indonesia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran,
Chile, Nigeria, and dozens more. You may remember how U.S. corporations
like Anaconda Copper and AT and T poured huge amounts of cash into
the Chilean presidential elections to keep Salvador Allende out
of power, as he favored keeping much of the country's wealth at
home for the benefit of the people. When the people of Chile democratically
elected him anyway, the C.I.A. engineered a military coup which
brought him down put the brutal, but U.S.-friendly dictator General
Pinochet in power. Only weeks ago, we backed a coup in Haiti that
ousted a democratic government and installed former death-squad
leaders in power. Yet we say we believe in democracy: the rule of
If a repressive
dictator can keep the people of a country in line and keep the profits
flowing to the multinational corporations by using US-weapons and
US-trained and supplied soldiers to prevent workers from striking,
we have consistently chosen that option over a democracy which focuses
on the needs of the poor and the working class. You can't do business
with the poor, but you can deal with a ruling class who maintain
their wealth and priviledge through U.S and foreign investments.
The LAST thing they want is democracy!
We give lip
service to democracy (power flowing up from the people, not downward
from the rich and powerful), but we don't promote democracy abroad,
and we're undermining democracy here at home.
The very people
who are hurt most by malicious government policies that deny health
care, decent education, good jobs, safe housing...have bad voting
records. Blacks, Hispanics, and poor whites traditionally have low
turnouts. If they came out and voted in force, the government of
this country might be quite different. The people that DO tend to
turn out are those who want to protect their privileged status in
a system that is working FOR THEM. These people are often believers
in the idea that they are superior to those who don't have jobs,
health care, decent housing, etc...and that "the general welfare"
I was once
involved in a teachers' strike in Los Angeles. Seventeen teachers
were being cut at our school alone. I did some phone-bank calling
to teachers, and I will never forget one guy I talked to. He vehemently
said he would never go on strike, and complained loudly about the
union...they never did the right things. I then asked him when he
last attended and participated in a union meeting to help set policy
to benefit both teachers and students in our district. He replied
that he had NEVER attended a union meeting . I resisted the temptation
to tell him that he, by his inaction, had forfeited the right to
complain. I feel the same way about my fellow Americans who love
to complain, but refuse to participate...to vote.
I am proud
of this country's ideals. Unfortunately, I see them being trashed
on a daily basis with so many people who could defend them standing
idly by and refusing to get involved...just like it was someone
else's country, not theirs.
Well, in Venezuela,
the people resisted the tremendous pressure by the U.S. oil companies
who wanted their democratically-elected leader, Hugo Chavez replaced.
The Venezuelans turned out. 95% voted. They fought for their rights,
for their country, and they won. Big money was defeated by the people.
I feel democracy
is a precious and fragile thing, won by the blood of so many who
went before us. Not to register, not to vote, not to have a say,
allows the special interests to buy elections. When that happens
you get a government that serves the oil companies, that helps ship
American jobs overseas, and that turns its back on it's children.
If you believe
in America, prove it. Look at what is going on, (not what Rush Limbaugh
or Fox news tells you is going on), register and vote! Democracy...use
it or lose it.
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