On the way home from work last Friday I was listening to NPR (ok before you blast my opinion before fully reading this tread, this is not a partisan opinion). The topic was a story about why people don’t vote. I used to believe the very same thing the people being interviewed believed–that being, one vote doesn’t matter.
The reporter interviewed many disillusioned people and all seemed to have the same opinion about how politicians make it so we cannot trust them and how it doesn’t matter how one person votes because nothing really changes, etc. I began to think about that and wondered if these people have been paying attention these last few years. No they are probably just like how I used to be.
During my 20’s I was the same as the people they were interviewing. Looking back I can give many reasons why–I was in the military and believed that politics wasn’t for a marine to worry about; I wanted to trust my leaders. I didn’t trust absentee ballots which was how I would have had to vote being away from my home of residence (this was before the 2000 vote).
Also, many people believe like me that politics is mostly local so being away from home makes it real hard to vote when you don’t really follow local issues. But it really only comes down to my apathy and the fact that status quo was good enough for me. So when did I decide that it was time to start paying attention?
After I got out of the USMC and went back to finish school I had many encounters with persons of the opposite opinion than myself. I had never considered myself a conservative person before but standing next to the picket carriers I sure as hell felt like it. They were protesting–always protesting every hippy issue you could possibly imagine.
In some ways I rather enjoyed being exposed to people who actually cared about a cause but soon came to the conclusion that these people were nothing more than political ‘scenesters’. They just liked being seen waving a picket sign like they were fulfilling some stereotype requirement of college liberal arts students.
Thankfully, I was able to escape to the ‘dungeon’ in the physics department that would become my home for the next six years while I concluded my studies. I further withdrew from public opinion and current events.
Fast forward 4 years to 2002 a very hard year for some Minnesotans–this was the year that Sen. Paul Wellstone (and wife and staff) bit it in a plane crash. This would be the first election I voted in…ever…I was 30.
Now, before you are quick to label me a liberal schmuck for not caring about politics until some poor, democrat, politician schlub dies in a plane crash–this was not my reason for voting. I am only giving the historical events to give you a frame of reference up to this point. It was more a philosophical awakening for me. Not in the idealistic sense but in the mathematical sense.
I had been spending the majority of my time reading data points off of optics sensors in northern MN and trying to figure out a way to confidently present results and I was listening to NPR coverage of Sen. Wellstone?s demise; they were talking about seeing record numbers of voters this election because of the feelings that were engendered by his death.
I remember feeling a little perturbed that I didn’t seem to have enough data to present confident results. I needed more. Forgive the cliche, but it hit me then like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Like data from scientific experimentation elections require as many data points as possible to ensure the utmost confidence in results. As one of my professors liked to often say (I don’t know if he was paraphrasing someone), “One data point does not prove anything, two points make a straight line and nature abhors straight lines.” So now you’ve read all of this and must be wondering what the hell my point is?
One vote doens’t much matter in the scheme of things but the collection of those votes are what the quailty of our life relies on. Democracy requires participation. We are only governed at our own consent and when we quit voicing our opinion we give up our power and allow the political minority to make our decisions for us.
Maybe you are happy with the status quo, maybe not–do something about it or reaffirm your solidarity with the status quo. Do what many people on this planet do not have a right to do. Tell your leaders what you think of them. Maximum participation now will result in maximum happiness in the end–or at the very least confidence that we still live in a democracy.