My Vote Didn’t Count

So elections were yesterday and despite distractions galore, I still managed to reach my daily word count goal for NaNoWriMo. Through antihistamines and philosophers, economic speakers and communication workshops, I thought the day would end on a solemn note. And when I saw some of the election results, certainly it seemed solidly solemn enough, but somehow there is clarity in these wins and losses–clarity that my vote didn’t count.

But don’t mistake me for apathy. There’s more to it than that.

I spent an hour on Sunday making phone calls to remind people to vote. I hate the phone. Between calls I paced around and reassured myself I had one less name to dial, just to do one more, and then I’d be done. It was excruciating. After I was finished I was invited to watch at the polls for a couple hours on election day, and I happily agreed. (I should have checked the forecast first.)

Despite the blistering cold, I did spend my two hours at the polls–but we weren’t campaigning. We were encouraging students to sign a banner and remind their friends to come and vote, because students have a voice, we are the future of our country, and we need to be heard by our present leaders–because although they know how to cater to our parents, when they’re the ones tied up as elderly Americans, we’ll be the ones caring for them.

The icy air wasn’t without its share of rewards as well: Not only did I get to meet Walter Dalton’s wife, I also got to meet the North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall–and who ever gets to say that? So I was rewarded for my efforts, but more importantly I helped make a difference in helping others get out the vote.

Except, in the end, how many of our votes actually counted?

Just under fifty percent of North Carolinians voted for now President-reelect Barack Obama, but by the time our voices of support reached the electoral college, all our votes were stomped out. One hundred percent of our electorates went to former Governor Romney, yet he had only earned fractionally more than half of them.

Where did my voice go? Where did the voices of hundreds, thousands of my fellow supporters go? We rose in a chorus of patriotism, and then we were silenced.

Silenced by an outdated system.

As it stands, President Obama received not only a large majority of the electoral college votes, but also a slim majority of the popular vote–but a majority nonetheless. It seems unfair that all of my state’s votes went to Romney when half of them rightfully belonged to Obama.

Yet I need not go on about the electoral college and why it’s obsolete.

Instead, I want to take a moment to reflect on a few things.

First, I am certain all candidates running in this election were capable and qualified to serve our people and possessed at least a modicum of the ideal inspiration to lead us. Regardless of party affiliations, it takes a true love for our country to run for office, even if sometimes that love seems clouded by a laundry list of personal interests. Especially in close races such as these, true motivation is necessary–because insincerity, easy to see, is flattering on no one.

Second, even though a number of the candidates I supported did not win the election, and I’m not happy to see my political opponents in power, it is the right of others to see elected those people they voted for and it is my obligation, as a citizen of the United States, as a resident of North Carolina, and as a resident of Randolph County to support my legislators now that they are in office–whether I wanted them there or not. As I said before, I am confident in their power to lead us–I just don’t agree with the direction they want to lead us in.

Third, the game does not end here. Our politicians have eyes and ears and what we do and what we say will still matter–and more so now than ever before, especially if those we voted against took office. Voting is transitory and comes and goes in a moment, in a day–but our leaders last longer. We, too, must last longer–our political involvement cannot and should not be transitory, coming and going in a matter of moments, seconds seemingly wasted when our efforts ended in failed campaigns, but must last as long as our leaders: These failed campaigns did not fail at all, for even resulting in no new leaders, they have served to raise the critical issues of the days and to invigorate people to be politically active–and that is wildly important in today’s era when apathy turns epidemic more easily than not.

Fourth, we must exercise our continued political power in advocacy and activism. We can continue to stay apprised of the issues that concern us, and more importantly, we can help direct our leaders: Let us not forget we are not blind sheep, but the true possessors of all the power in the land–and our leaders are our representatives. We may not have chosen them all, but that does not make them any less responsible to consider our views as well. We must write to our legislators and leaders, we must meet them and follow how they act, praise them when they act in honorable ways and express our discontent, kindly and professionally, when we feel otherwise.

Fifth, the election is over and it is time for change to begin. We cannot simply step out of the game. We must continue to move forward for our causes, building bridges with those whose opinions differ from ours and working towards a common future wherein all people can live peaceably and prosperously. We must transcend the rhetoric of the issues and address the root causes. Relax your words on abortion and let’s focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies. Let’s drop our definitions of “one man, one woman” and work to build an country wherein family values–commitment, fidelity, trust, and partnership–are the true staples of our personal unions. Let us consider what benefits there may be to new laws (or no laws) on guns and drugs, let us look at violence and health studies and make informed decisions that will help our people individually and our country collectively.

Sixth, remind yourself the ties that unite us are forever stronger than the difference that drive us apart–and only in that moment when we realize this can we truly call ourselves the land of the free. Innovation and inspiration arise at the interfaces of opposition–not when forces clash, but when they combine. When the molten fire of a volcanic eruption meets the dark cold waters of the ocean, new land is born. Oil and water may stand separate when the status quo is standard, but when they are mixed and mingled, they can–and do–coexist; it may only be fleeting, but in that meeting place of extremes, great patterns and designs can and will arise.

Seventh, listen. Just listen. Take a moment to stop talking and listen to the people around us. It is time now for us to come together, but we can only form a stronger union when we are open to learning about each other. I may not agree with the points you stand for, but in understanding why you stand for them, we can transcend our differences and become closer, stronger, more complete. The United States is not merely a melting pot wherein all our ideas mix into something homogenous, but a mosaic in which all of our pieces together create a work of beauty–but only when every part of the mosaic fills its place is the picture complete.

And here, here I end. The weight of my vote might have been dwarfed by the system in place, but the importance of my vote could not have been more significant. Likewise, the true importance and significance of the American political engine is not suddenly over, but is now ultimately beginning–and it is time we move forward, together.

All our leaders are capable leaders, whether we favor them or not, and collectively, those most desired to lead us have been made our new leaders. We must continue to be politically cognizant and active, remembering our leaders are not absolute leaders but representatives with a responsibility to listen and act for our collective well-being. Most importantly, we must now unite and rebuild our country–together, with all hands at the table, because all of us are part of the whole we now yearn to create.

So take a stand. Stand not for red or blue, but red and blue together.

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