At times, our country is a challenging place to live. I find myself in the middle of a political war zone, with varying voices, all promoting contrasting opinions, yelling at me. I’m in the middle of a screaming match, and I don’t even know what I did to end up here, but despite this, every day I say I am proud I live in America. I know the sacrifices my ancestors made for my family to be where we are today, and I am grateful. Despite the country’s many downfalls, it is a privilege to live here.
I -and Americans in general- am accustomed to a series of privileges and rights that many other countries’ citizens’ are not afforded. These include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and, arguably most importantly, the right to vote. In America, all citizens of legal age are constitutionally guaranteed the right to vote. It has been a fight, fought by many of our ancestors, to allow every person, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, and class, to cast their ballot each election year. Although for varying reasons, it remains a struggle for some groups to cast their ballot, our right to vote is the foundation of our democracy.
For many, casting their first ballot at the age of eighteen is a milestone in their lives, representing their newly acquired power in decisions about how their country is run. After years of hearing political rhetoric at home, in classrooms, and beyond, they finally gain their own voice in the political process. Unfortunately, voting is a privilege taken for granted by nearly 43% of eligible voters in America. That means that 100 million people who could have voted in the 2016 presidential election didn’t. One hundred million voices, gone! We live in a time where people all over the world die to have their voices heard, yet in our presidential election, by far the most high profile election held in the United States, 100 million people decided not to exercise the right granted through the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors.
Many people don’t vote because they get stuck on the idea that their vote “doesn’t matter” thinking that no matter who they vote for, candidates they didn’t support will be elected to office. However that is the beauty of democracy; each and every vote has the power to change the entire outcome of an election. Sure, maybe your preferred candidate doesn’t win, but your vote is a symbol that your voice has been heard. It is a symbol that you have the freedom to choose where your one vote goes. Also, you never know just how close an election may be; your vote could be the deciding factor.
Be grateful you live in a country that makes decisions which may be controversial at times, but which also allows each person to vote to change it for the better. Voting doesn’t mean you have to know every lick of information about politics, but it does show you care about your future and want to better it. Benjamin Franklin was once asked, “What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our responsibility is to keep it. Have a say in what happens in America and your future. In a world where many are lost in a sea of voices, find yours and use it.
Register to vote here: https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote#item-212645