December 15, 2017

Finding Political Voice For Those Left Voiceless

Shinae Lee. Photo by Deepak Bardhan.

By Shinae Lee ’19
Opinion Editor

Every four years, starting in Elementary school, we would have discussions in class about presidential elections. We were barely ten years old when we experienced heated arguments on the school bus about Bush or Kerry, as if we knew or understood anything about politics.

That November (‘04), our social science teacher attempted to teach us about how the electoral college works. He tried.

Another four years later, around the ‘08 presidential elections, we learned about the differences between democrats and republicans. Our teacher tried to talk to us about the importance of this election, but we didn’t know what it meant to have political discussions, not to mention discussions on race or gender. None of us really understood politics except for what we heard from our parents at the dinner table.

Now, as adults, we are expected to have some idea of what we believe concerning government and legislature. Since those lessons in school, most of my learning came from listening to different people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, as well as watching “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show” (with Jon Stewart).

I admit, I tend to detest politics for its suspiciously complicated nature and capacity to foster corruption. However, I believe that governments, not politics, exist to serve and protect their citizens and that citizens should have the right to be heard by their Government.

But in order to be heard, one must participate in political action. Last year, I was constantly being asked if I was registered to vote, or if I planned on voting. I had to explain so many times that I can’t, because I am just a Permanent Resident. As a Green Card holder, I am ineligible to vote in Federal, State, and Local Elections.

I have no choice but to miss out on the many opportunities to really contribute in making a difference. Especially at the final municipal elections all over MA that took place this November 7th (‘17). I could not vote in the city of my residence.

Furthermore, since I recently moved there this summer, I wouldn’t have felt qualified to participate in this election, even if I could have.

Nonetheless, I care about social justice issues, which exist in all communities. I asked local advocates if there was anything I could do to help. But once I told them that I am just a Permanent Resident, their enthusiasm suddenly decreased; we all understood that I could not do much except show my support.

When I asked my peers last year if they were registered to vote, or if they were going to vote, I was surprised by how many said “no.”   When I asked why, I was very upset by the responses: “I’m too lazy” or “I don’t care. Now, I don’t mean anyone specific, and I don’t mean to put anyone down at all. It was just a constant reminder that no matter how much I wish I could, I cannot officially have a say in important decisions regarding my community and the people around me, in the country I grew up in

Voting is a right. But being born in the US or having a US Passport is a great privilege. To see others take this for granted is heartbreaking.

Let us not simply pray for wisdom, but also be proactive in being wise. You have access to so many resources that will help you to make informed decisions.You are an intelligent and relevant human being, you can represent yourself for what you think is right.

If you are eligible to vote in this country, I ask that you honor and respect the rights you have been given.

Do research, try to look at issues from all sorts of different perspectives and talk to people of different ages and backgrounds. Yes, make decisions based on your beliefs and values- they are completely valid.

It is necessary to be an informed voter, no matter what kind of election. It’s hard to trust politicians, and they often use emotions or some sort of “tactic” to draw in supporters. But please be responsible and take the time to really consider who you are voting for, what you are voting for, and who you may affect. Because this is a powerful tool you have access to, and you have an opportunity to make changes (positive or negative) for your neighbors and friends, relatives and strangers.  

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