How to Vote

I do not typically write about politics. I have found that politics as a conversation topic falls in line with religion and food as being the three most utterly useless things to try and discuss with people. Everyone has already made up their mind, and has absolutely no interest in what you think except to turn around and tell you how you are so wrong you have actually become sub-human in the process. This is why I am not writing about politics. I am writing about voting.

During this election, just like every election since I’ve been paying attention, a segment of society says they are going to make a stand by not voting. I wanted to say to these people “congratulations, you have struck on the single most pointless protest imaginable.” You, by refusing to vote, have indistinguishably joined the other forty percent of Americans too apathetic to vote. Your grand gesture of defiance is no more noticeable than a grain of sand on a beach. A grain of sand three feet under the surface of a beach no one goes to because of toxic waste and frequent shark attacks.

If you want to protest the system I suggest doing something with a little more imagination and pizazz than you brought to your last English midterm. Here are some possibilities I officially do not suggest due to potential legal consequences:

  • Pick up a paper ballot and eat it in front of the staff before walking out.
  • Pick up a paper ballot, go in to the bathroom and shout out “I need another!”
  • Pick up a paper ballot, tear it up, and throw it on the floor.
  • Spit in front of the voting booth (not on the voting booth, that may spread disease, but the floor is already disgusting).
  • Go into the voting booth and refuse to leave. Say you can’t figure out difference.
  • There are usually people outside trying to get last minute votes for their candidates. Host an impromptu oral exam. Ask them questions about the differences between the candidates. Ask real questions about the candidates’ policies. Bring the answers with you. Vote for whoever knows the most about the candidate they are supporting. Make it a big spectacle if you want.

That is how you vote for a new system. Simply not voting is apathetic and ignorable. Doing any of the above or anything else you can think of is a vote for a new system. A protest of the way things are. If you simply do not vote, at least do not kid yourself. You voted alright. You voted “yes, I’m fine with the system the way it is.” If this is not how you want to vote, it is your responsibility to act up. To make a scene. And to vote against the status quo. If you are shy, you could even just do a write-in vote for “none of the above.” If enough people vote that way it will get attention.

Voting is not limited to election day either. Your every action is a vote. And being mindful of this is enough to make real changes in our personal lives, potentially changes in the lives of those around us, and even national or international changes.

Voting starts with what you buy. Every dollar you spend is a vote. If you spend a dollar at Walmart you have told Walmart you approve of them. You approve of their business practices, the way they produce their products, the way they treat their employees, and all the rest. Not only did you vote for it, you directly paid for it to continue. You voiced your support and they listened. If you protested Walmart coming to town, do not hand over your money because they came in anyway. Doing so tells Walmart they actually are wanted, and those who protested were just confused. They wanted Amway products or something.

It is not just Walmart. If you do not want to support OPEC, Exxon, etc, then do not buy gas. If you do not agree with DuPont Chemical, or Monsanto, or Weyerhaeuser, or whatever…do not buy their products. Your purchase of gas, of non-locally produced food, of paper made from rainforest, etc voices your support for the system and all it entails. You voted in favor of unsustainable agricultural practices doomed to leave the human race in famine. You voted in favor of the rich versus the poor. You voted in favor of imperialism. You voted in favor of the destruction of ecosystems so complicated no human technology or society has even come close. An ecosystem so unique that in 3.5 billion years of life and nearly 200 million square miles of planet (510 million square kilometers) it has only ever appeared once. And you voted to destroy it so you could eat oranges in January? Because the t-shirt was three dollars less?

If you buy a t-shirt made in Bangladesh you voted in support of the slave labor used to produce it. In support of the toxic chemicals leached into the ecosystem. In support of the corporations that profit from it. Without your support none of it would be possible.

Every action you take is a vote. Most people are voting in favor the status quo. Why? Because its easy. Why you do it is understandable. Its hard to vote against the status quo in this way. It requires planning, foresight, talking to people who live near you. Imagine it! Actually knowing the person who grows the food you eat. Who knitted the sweater that keeps you warm. Imagine the insolence of it all. Telling the status quo to take a hike, and embarrassing a different way all in one fell sweep.

You cannot help but vote. So vote with your convictions. Vote with courage. And remember to vote on November 4th.

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