Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Need for a Little More "Umph"

Instead of answering this question by simply saying that, “yes we should have elections” as opposed to obliterating them due to lack of national pride, I looked at this problem from a different angle. Yes, there are ways in which Democratic elections “de-politicize” the people but what good would come about it we were to rid our society of them? To answer this question another way, it is possible to amend the ways we handle our elections in the US. It is commonplace in America for an everyday citizen to absentmindedly sit down in front of the computer and do a quick research about a candidate that moderately appeals to him/her. Come election day, this individual would mutter about having to get up extra early, go to the polling station, vote, and then promptly forget about the whole ordeal. Simultaneously, half way around the world Africans, Iraqis, Thai, Afghans and many others are taking to the street in rage over the absence of their right to choose. They are denied this privilege we consider ‘basic’ and because of this, their societies are instilled with more forms of passion and interest in politics.
These differences should raise a red flag for us. This doesn’t mean we need to go out and murder our neighbor because s/he has a different political affiliation. Rather, maybe we’ve taken our right to vote for granted. Here, we know that despite our gender, race or nationality we can elect a candidate we feel is best. So why is it that (as a whole) we don’t exhibit such passion as other nations do? During the last election, I felt like a citizen of one of those countries who had so much to say and so much to do, but could not legally vote. I remember feeling so balled up with political energy, yet had no way of channeling it.
The way I looked at America as a whole and the way a Thai might look at America’s general political involvement were probably similar on some levels. Our nation today has already laid down the groundwork for a democratic society. Generations of us are so used to living in a free world that we can’t compare to other states that are in the process of wanting and creating a democracy. For example, in March of 2010, thousands took to the streets in Thailand to protest the supposedly Democratic government. There were no elections and the general consensus was to dissolve the Thai parliament. As swarms upon swarms of protesters joined the ever-growing crowd, a term called “Cruel April” went into effect to describe the deaths and the casualties inflicted on the people. An average person would be more astounded by the gory deaths then by the denial of a fair vote.
Because we are allowed a democratic election, we invariably take it for granted. There is an element of patriotism of taking to the streets (preferably nonviolently) and really believing in a certain candidate. It is in our greater interest to perhaps show more national pride than we have in the past.

1 comment:

  1. Although I agree that as a nation, many of us lack an intense passion for a particular candidate or party, I disagree that this is as damaging to democracy as you make it sound. You mentioned in the first paragraph that "it is possible to amend the ways we handle our elections" in the United States to support a more involved or passionate citizenry. However, I believe that by forcing citizens to take strong stances on issues they would prefer to remain apathetic to, you would not only further polarize our political system, but would also weaken democracy as a whole. Forcing an individual to choose a side, as closed state primaries often do, for example, is as constraining as not allowing an individual to choose at all because in both cases you take away the liberty to freely express one's belief, even if that belief is apathy. Therefore, although there are some Americans who take their right to vote for granted, to change election policies to force passion on a population is not an acceptable or appropriate strategy to increase political participation in any democratic society.