Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Go Out and Exercise ... Your Right to Vote

Today is the primary vote in the state of California. Since I have turned 18, no matter where I have lived, I have never missed a single vote. I am extremely passionate about people exercising their right to vote partly because of a trip to Europe I took with my mother in 1976.

Growing up, I was extremely lucky to have the experience of having students and young adults from around the world live with my family — Brazil, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Costa Rica and Iran. It was a great to hear how other people lived and thought about their countries and the USA.

In 1976, my mother and I did a tour of Europe and visited several of these visitors. In Germany we were taken to the border of East and West Germany. It was a profound and terrifying experience. 

Here is what I remember: I looked across a field that led into the forest. In the field I was told there were land mines. To my left and my right were guard towers. Each guard tower had two guards carrying rifles with scopes. Several times while standing on the West German side the guards would point their guns at us and watch us through their scopes. In front of me was a tall barbed wire fence, electrified, and every 25 to 30 feet along the top of that were motion sensitive guns. After that fence was the “free zone” of about 10 to 15 feet. Finally, closest to me, was a short chain link fence for the boarder of West Germany.

It was a life changing experience for me — to see a country literally fence its citizens in under force. I could not even image living under such conditions. I realized then that I lived in a very special country. I am not saying that the USA doesn’t make mistakes; it has and will continue to do so I am sure. But I still feel strongly that it is the greatest land of freedom and opportunity in the world.

Seeing that fence also makes me against the building of a wall/fence between the US and Mexico. Who's to say how that border gets used in the future? That is one risk I am not willing to take. There are so many other ways to deal with immigration besides building a physical barrier — but I digress.

The common excuse I hear is I don’t want to be an uninformed vote. I really don’t buy this as an excuse. There are so many resources to use now with the internet to get educated on both sides of an issue I just can’t buy that. Spend 20 minutes less on Facebook, YouTube or Pinterest and get the facts.

I am so disappointed in how few people vote in this country. A right that was so hard fought for by our founding fathers and many civil leaders in this country. A right that still today many people both male and especially female do not have in other places around the world. A right you can see people literally dying for on the evening news, yet most Americans can’t be bothered with taking a few minutes out of the lives once or twice a year to do. 

I think so much of this has to do with that fact that even though Forbes reports record holdings of passports by US citizens — now at one-third, which has doubled from 2000 — most US citizens have never really seen for themselves how much of the rest of the world lives. They do not really get what a good thing we have going here in American. They don’t understand how precious their right to vote really is in the scope of world dynamics.

As we get closer to our national elections there will be endless stories with poling numbers. I always have a hard time getting excited about anything the talking heads are predicting because how many of those people are actually going to vote? Even in the 2008 elections we only achieved a 63 percent voter rate, meaning that almost 40 percent of those who could vote did not. Shameful. 

I also hold to one rule, if you don’t vote you can’t complain around me. You have zero, zilch, zip no credibility in complaining if you did not even take the time to go and vote.

For those of you who are Californians, go vote today. If your primary is coming up, take the time to educate yourself and vote. Come November, it would be a wonderful thing for our country if we all cast our votes for those candidates and causes we believe will make our country an even better place to live.


  1. You are right, some people who haven't experienced how it is in other countries... take their right for granted.

    1. I think it is dangerous to take that right for granted.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly Pamela - those who haven't traveled have no idea what an enormous privilege it is to get to vote - I witnessed the 1994 re-birth of South Africa and I was completely humbled when I saw the often 5-mile-queue of women with babies on their backs - waiting to cast a vote for the first time in their lives - like your image of the wall in Germany, this is an image I shall never forget - and I will never waste my vote. Thanks for this awesome article.

  3. Tina I totally agree. Unfortunately too many Americans are sheltered from these realities around the world. Women especially forget what a gift they have in being able to vote in the USA.