Once upon a time I didn’t vote. It was a matter of principle. Because I am a critical and honest person I don’t shy away from seeing the faults in any given candidate and I don’t toe party lines for the sake of it. One could take a list of my opinions on all things political and no doubt nest me within the category of liberal, perhaps even Democrat, with the exception of a few select topics. I come to these opinions of my own accord, without deferring to the opinions of any party. For years this independent analysis of issues and candidates made me a bit cynical of politics. That was one of the reasons I maintained that it was unfair that I was forced to choose between two people that I considered to be unfit for office. I still had a rebellious streak at the time and so I opted out of the decision altogether. No one could actually force me to choose. I was exercising my liberty by not voting. In a way the refusal to take part seemed like the right thing to do. I felt unspoiled by a process I interpreted as corrupt.
Being a young, white, male heterosexual meant that I didn’t really feel many of the more serious effects of those decisions. Who won or lost rarely hit me close to home. No candidates ever threatened my reproductive rights or my right to get married or my right not to be fired because of prejudice. I could sit back and feel unspoiled by a corrupt process because I was privileged. People had often tried to convince me to vote. I argued my case. Of course what was more important to most of them was that they persuade me to vote for their party but one thing that was lacking was that no one ever bothered to bring to my attention that I was being a dick. I didn’t know I was being a dick. In some twisted way I thought I was being a good citizen. It turns out that most assholes don’t really know they’re assholes. Sometimes they need to be told. Sometimes they need to be shown.
So here is the lesson I took form it all. If you care about your fellow human beings, if you think people have rights that shouldn’t be stripped away, if you believe that the constitution of this country and the democratic ideas it supports are worth preserving, then there is absolutely no good reason not to go to the polls when the time comes. With rights come responsibilities. Sure, there is no law requiring us to live up to our responsibilities. Nor should there be. It is the choosing to live up to them that is important. Not choosing the lesser of two evils is giving permission to someone else to choose the greater of two evils. So if you care, don’t be a dick. Vote.