This wasn’t my first time voting, but in many ways it was. In the past, I voted who I was told to vote for. I didn’t dare think outside the box because I was terrified of what might happen. The few people who were brave enough to openly support Obama at Bob Jones University were looked down on and ostracized by their fellow students, and I’ll admit that I was one of the students ostracizing those brave souls. Between the peer pressure and the terror stories told by the preachers about what would happen to America if we didn’t vote her back to fundamentalist principles, there never seemed any other option. I voted blindly. I voted fearfully.
This time around, there was a similar fear, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. As I watched the consistent attempts to whittle down women’s rights and listened to the rhetoric that made me feel like I had entered an alternative universe, I felt like, once again, I had no choice. Even though I was unhappy with Obama for having extended the Patriot Act and concerned with the potential ramifications of H.R. 347—even though I was dumbfounded by the fact that both were almost unanimously passed through Congress—I still felt like I was being forced to vote out of fear of what might happen if a Republican won . . . until I discovered that there were more than two choices.
People told me it was a wasted vote. They told me that “third parties” never won and that the two-party system was just the way it was. They told me their own disappointed stories of having voted for third-parties and nothing coming of it. They said the United States had been that way since its birth and wouldn’t change.
But I decided that I wasn’t comfortable just letting it go and voting what I was told. I looked into each candidate. I thought I would probably come back to Obama because he would still seem like the best choice, but it gave me comfort to feel like I was making an informed choice.
To my consternation, I found myself falling in love with Jill Stein and the Green New Deal. I fell in love with her stand for freedom, her refusal to take corporate money, and her unflinching honesty about topics that the Democrats and Republicans were staying as far away from as possible.
Still, I heard that voice whispering that I needed to vote for Obama . . . or else.
Or else what? Something bad might happen if I step out of the two-party peer-pressure system? Such classic avoidance training! Yes, something bad might happen if I take a chance to express my disapproval with both Democrats and Republicans . . . the candidate I like least might win.
But nothing good could happen if I voted out of fear.
Both Democrats and Republicans have betrayed freedom, in my mind, by passing legislation that attacked various rights. I definitely think Republicans have made more obvious attacks, but they both made attacks. Voting out of fear would just mean I was making a choice between which rights I was willing to forego. Was I willing to overlook my right to privacy in order to vote to have my right to choose? Were my rights as a bisexual worth more than my right to protest, to freedom of speech, or to due process?
I don’t think I should be having to weigh which rights I’m willing to take a hit on. Talk about wasting a vote! Voting for someone I don’t believe in because I am too scared not to is a wasted vote!
Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I’ve been thinking about that statement and the personal power it implies all afternoon, and I think she was onto something much deeper than just feeling bad or good about oneself.
No one can take away my power or my rights without my consent. No one can take away my choice or my autonomy without my consent. No one can take away my voice without my consent.
I hear so many people complaining about the way the elections are functioning and expressing dissatisfaction in the lack of choices, and the infuriating part is that we are the ones locking ourselves into this because we too scared of what might happen if we step outside of the box we’ve put around ourselves.
But isn’t that what I left fundamentalism to escape? A life controlled by fear isn’t what I want. My power is my own. I will not give it up by believing that it can be taken away.
Today, for the first time, I voted for the candidate who I felt represented freedom the most.
For the first time, I feel like my vote actually counted because it wasn’t a tool in someone else’s hands; it was the clear and unequivocal exercise of my right to express how I want government to function.
I can’t even express how excited and proud I was to walk into that booth and know that I was making my own choice. I dream of a day when we can all recognize the tremendous power of change that we possess and stop this silly business of voting the party line out of fear.
I tweeted you too! 🙂
So we were apparently at BJU the same time – so sad we didn’t meet then! Ah, well.
I have very, very fuzzy memories of how the election went down in 2008 at BJU. I remember the day of prayer, when I covertly texted my then-best-friend Justin, “I’m in a room full of neocons. HELP.” And I remember feeling largely ambivalent about the results, but sort of stifling secret feelings of happiness that Obama won. And I remember bringing home the Collegian from after the election, because it had a list of the BJU-lingo in it that I wanted to show friends back home who didn’t understand how I talked anymore, and the photo they chose of Obama for the front was very “heil-Hitler!”-ish. And I remember thinking that people were way, way too upset about it (but honestly believing that race had nothing to do with it.)
This is the first time I voted, period. It was scary, for much of the same reasons you listed – I’m used to towing the conservative party line, and I’m just…I’m not a conservative anymore. And what drove me to the polls wasn’t my fear of Romney and Paul (though I admit, there was a teeny bit of that there) – it was the fact that my state was putting gay marriage to a popular vote, and I knew more than I knew anything that I had to stand with my LGBTQA+ siblings and that I wanted to live in a state that supports love and equality.
But I also felt very ashamed, because I didn’t know who anyone else on the ballot was. So I’ve strengthened my resolve that I’m going to be better informed from now on. And I might start by looking into Jill Stein 🙂
Thanks for writing this. You are a braver soul than I.
I’m glad you got out and voted yesterday. I hope it was an enriching experience. It can be overwhelmingly confusing. I wasn’t even aware or all that were running in my state despite my best efforts to research it. I’m so excited an proud to see how people have rallied for lgbt rights and have given a deafening no to the rape redefiners. I think there were probably quite a few who voted simply because of those issues.
There are a lot of ways the electoral system could be modified to better cater for people with opinions such as “I’d rather have this major candidate than his main rival, but this third one would be best of all”
The methods I like best are the Condorcet family of methods, but there are others too.