It’s story time, everyone!
The Setting: The Congressional Baseball Game, Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
The Players: Myself and three of my roommates, two who identify as Democrats and one who identifies as a Republican
It is hot and sticky at the Congressional Baseball Game and I am sweating. I am also bored to tears because, although I thought it would be cool to watch congressmen play baseball, nobody from Minnesota is playing; naturally, being the individual that I am who doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to politics, I don’t know who anybody is.
The roomies and I are sitting in the Democrat section. This is funny because my Republican roommate is the one who chose the spot, unaware that she chose to sit with the opposing team. The Democrats are winning and the people around me are going crazy. My Republican roommate makes squeals of disappointment every once in a while and is the lone enthusiast for the conservative team’s success in a sea full of liberals.
At one point, one of my Democrat roommates makes a comment about how “the two Republicans over there are are probably disappointed” or something to that extent; she is referring to my roommate and myself. My Republican roommate and I are sitting in front of her and I turn back and say, “I’m not a Republican.” She shockingly says, “well, what are you?” “I consider myself to me an independent. I share certain views with each side, but I don’t identify with either major party.” She looks at me like I’m crazy, as if not identifying with a political party is the worst possible thing ever. It was a “well, I’m clearly talking to a stupid and politically inactive individual right here” kind of look.
I am slightly offended by her comment in the first place because I have never openly discussed my political beliefs with my roommates, and yet she assumes that I am a Republican. The look of disrespect she gives me further sets me off about the issue. So what if I am not as politically active as some people? I personally think there are other (and, in my opinion, more rewarding) ways to make a difference than through politics.
This whole conversation sums up my feelings about the political atmosphere of the present. It has become a competition between two opposing sides, those two sides are firmly set in stone on their beliefs and actions, and anybody who fails to identify with one side or the other is perceived as uninformed, unintelligent, or both.
This is the entry point to my main point of the day: I have made the conscious decision to not vote this year.
I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for this. I can tell you my D.C. roommates definitely will if they end up reading this. I grew to love my D.C. roommates over the eight weeks I lived with them, but we certainly have very different views of politics and to what extent people should participate in politics. I know people are going to tell me I’m a terrible citizen. Why are you not taking advantage of this right that you have, Britta? It is your responsibility as a U.S. citizen, Britta! Don’t you realize that there are many people in the world that don’t have this right? Midterm elections are more important than the presidential election in the grand scheme of things! You are cheating yourself and your country, Britta!
Yes, yes, yes, I know all of these things and I’m sick and tired of hearing them.
Let me be clear: This is not a “I’m too lazy to get off my ass and go to the polls” situation.
This is a conscious decision that I have put a lot of thought into.
I don’t expect any explaining on my part of change people’s perceptions of me as a terrible human being who refuses to go out and exercise a basic right that American citizens have. I don’t feel the need to justify my decision, but I would like to explain it.
When it all comes down to it, I do not feel educated enough to cast a vote this year. I will not deny the fact that I have not put in the time to educate myself about the candidates that are running. Laziness you ask? No, the fact of the matter is that voting makes me terribly anxious. Being an educated voter is a major responsibility and the thought of doing all that research fills me with a certain amount of dread. Having not done the appropriate research, I’m not going to vote for the sake of voting. I’m not going to vote because it’s thrown in my face as my obligation as a citizen of these fifty United States to make my voice heard. To tell you the truth, something about voting just rubs me the wrong way. For one, I don’t like putting these issues into clear cut boxes. The two party system may be convenient, but I don’t think it is an accurate representation of the way humans should be making their decisions. We are naturally complex individuals and there is so much more to us than simply being a Democrat or a Republican. Furthermore, I have to admit that I’m a little cynical about the whole political system as it is; instead of facing up to all the problems I see within it, I’m hiding behind my college student facade and completely ignoring the issues that are at hand. Is that right? Perhaps not, but it’s working for me right now. I know once I graduate and venture out in the “real world” that that will be harder to do. I’m going to have to face my anxieties about voting at face value and dive into the issues. I don’t want to remain a non-voter for life. I think voting is important (though I would argue that people make a bigger deal out of it than it really is). To be an educated voter, though, is a lot of work. It requires copious amounts of research into candidates. It’s time consuming. Because we live in a country where we must choose between two main parties, it requires the ability to recognize which issues are most important to you as an individual instead of trying to find a candidate that you agree 100% with on everything. It’s tedious work and work that I clearly haven’t done.
I voted in the 2012 election because I felt morally obligated to, but I was not confident in my choices. I did some last minute research the night before, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I did not walk out of the polls in 2012 feeling good about myself for voting. I walked out feeling very conflicted because though I knew I was doing my “civic duty” as an individual, I didn’t feel like I was educated enough to cast the votes that I had made. In 2012 I felt like I was cheating the system by voting when I felt like I didn’t even know who I was really voting for. Yes, this is a result of my inability to go out and actually educate myself about the issues, but honestly, I think there are worse things in the world. I was talking to one of my friend–who is in a similar situation as me in being uneducated–last night and she said, “I was thinking about going in and voting all Democrat just to vote, but I don’t know if I that’s what I should be doing.”
I don’t want to vote if I don’t know what I’m really voting for. I feel like that is more of a disservice to this nation than going in and voting for the sake of voting. When I do choose to educate myself for future elections, it’s not necessarily something I’ll take pride in. It’s something I’ll do because I understand that sometimes we must do things we aren’t fond of to remain as contributing members of society. I actually think the whole concept of campaigns and elections are incredibly shallow. These things that are supposed to raise awareness for the issues that surround our society have become vehicles for name calling and bad manners. They have become more about branding the candidates rather than fighting for what these candidates believe in. When I say voting rubs me the wrong way, it’s not so much the act of voting itself as much as the context that the act of voting is working in. So much that encompasses campaigns and elections are incredibly superficial and it’s difficult for me to see past all that to the real issues at hand.
To all those people who have been hounding me to vote: is this what you really want? Someone who clearly hasn’t taken the time to do their homework to go to the polls? I’m not going to base any decisions I make about a candidate on your silly handouts that are trying so desperately to brand your candidate of choice. When I decide to exercise my voting rights in the future, I am going to make my decisions based on my own personal research about candidates, not on a little pamphlet you give me. I don’t want a repeat of my experiences voting in Election 2012, because I feel like I did more harm than good by placing the uneducated votes that I did out of moral obligation more than anything else.
People spend too much time concentrating on the fact that voting is a Constitutional right that they fail to consider that it is also a personal decision; if my moral obligation to America is to indeed let my voice be heard, this blog post is how I’m going to do that today. I’m not saying that my choice is the right one, but it’s the one I’m making this year.