To Vote, or Not to Vote, that is NOT the Question.

We are in the midst of political campaigns and debates as Election Day approaches. Actually, we have been living in the midst of campaigns for the entire year! I feel fatigued by it and am looking forward to the end of it on November 6th. Regardless, I recognize how important casting one’s vote is and how important it is to be a well informed voter.

I did not always feel this way. Before my emigration to this country, my voting or not voting was totally irrelevant. Why?

Well, imagine yourself living behind the iron curtain in so called Communist Poland where you would have to vote for the list of candidates preselected by the Communist Party.

On Voting Day, which was always a Sunday, you would go to the voting place, pick up your ballot, glance at it quickly, and promptly insert it into the slot of the voting box. Most likely that box would be positioned in front of a rectangular table decorated with flowers and flags. At that table you would see the faces of several Party officials, sitting there and watching you carefully.

Oh yes! There would be available one booth with a black or green curtain. You could enter that booth to pencil out a couple of names on the ballot. But why would you bother? Living there at that time you would understand that “your patriotic duty is to trust the Party,” so even entering that booth would be a sign of your distrust. You would also know that those watchful comrades at the decorated table would make a note of it, and sooner or later you would be questioned about it. After all, the Communist Party had ultimate power over your life—like having a job, a place to live, permission to move to another city or to travel abroad.

Coming to this country changed my perspective on voting dramatically. So today when someone tells me, “I will not vote because it does not make any difference,” I get upset and argue, “It does matter a great deal!”

2012 presidential and vice-presidential debates

Romney-Obama and Biden-Ryan debates

I do admit that living in this country for many years has dimmed the rosy picture of Democracy which I had at first. Still, I believe in our democracy. Learning about the Civil Rights Movement in this country contributed greatly to that belief. It preserved my optimism and hope for change in spite of some cynicism creeping into my heart.

Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, is known today as the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. It is the place where a quiet action by Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Ten years later, another spark ignited the fire of the Voting Rights Movement — the famous, bloody march from Selma to Montgomery.

Last year I took the opportunity to visit Selma and Montgomery to “touch” the reality of those places.

Entrance to Selma, AL

Selma, Alabama

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma

The Edmund Pettus Bridge is the landmark in Selma that “witnessed” three attempts by the Voting Rights Movement to march peacefully to Montgomery. The first attempt on March 7, 1965 was bloody and ended at the bridge with the marchers being brutally beaten by Alabama State Troopers and forced to turn back. The last one on March 21 was successful — it took 4 days for protesters to walk to their destination, the state Capitol — this time with armed protection enforced by a U.S. District Court order. These marches led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act on July 9, 1965.

Cover of "The March Continues" from Southern Poverty Law Center

Cover of exhibit guide

Marchers on Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma

Marchers on Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma.
Click on photo to watch the video “Faces in the Water.”

Entrance to Civil Rights Museum, Selma, Alabama

Entrance to The National Voting Rights Museum, Selma

Inside the National Voting Rights Museum

At the desk of the Museum

Civil Rights Memorial fountain in Montgomery, Alabama

Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery

"Faces in the Water" video, and "A Lawyer's Journey: by Morris Dees

Mementos from the Civil Rights Memorial Center

Two woman holding sign "Votes for Women"

I experienced the women’s movement in this country during the 1970s and was strongly influenced by it. However, the women’s struggle for their voting rights had taken place much earlier in most countries including the United States. Somehow I did not take any special interest in the history of women’s suffrage until now.

It is amazing that women, half the population of this proudly democratic country, did not have the right to vote for over a century. Women had to take that issue into their hands and fight for that basic political right. Many dedicated their lives to it.

Women's suffrage march, Washington DC, March 3, 1913

Women’s suffrage march in Washington, D.C., 1913

While I simply hated the unlimited power of the Communist Party in Poland, today I dislike and distrust the power of “Big Money” (corporate and individual) trying to influence and distort the democratic process in this country. That is why I believe in the importance of being an informed voter.

In my opinion the act of not voting is a form of betrayal of those who in the past suffered, and in some cases died, for the right to vote.

November 6th is Election Day — be sure to VOTE!

Back cover of Bridges Magazine, published by Imani Press

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Photo of exhibit guide from Southern Poverty Law Center. Photo of marchers from “Faces in the Water” video. Women’s suffrage photos source unknown. Photo of men and flag from back cover of Bridges published by Imani Press. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

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15 Comments on “To Vote, or Not to Vote, that is NOT the Question.”

  1. Marge Says:

    Nicely done — finished my early voting ballot an hour ago…

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      That’s great Marge – congratulations!

      I still have to catch up with some local issues – a lot of reading – since I was not in Tucson for a while.

      Thanks for your comment.
      Alicja.

  2. Connie Graham Says:

    Ditto. Thanks. Connie

  3. Alison Nylund Says:

    Thank you, Alicja. I couldn’t find any fast way to get your perspective expressed. I’m glad you wrote this post. I hope that you’ll speak to civics classes, immigrant groups, and others. You can do America a lot of good.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Dear Alison,

      I am glad that you read my blog and that you like it. Please forward it to others if you have the time and desire to do so.

      Yesterday I had a lecture and a very interesting dialog with students at the PIMA College. I know you would enjoy it.

      Many thanks for your support and comment!

      Alicja

  4. Vince Says:

    Alicja…your insights are spot-on. In my 62 years as an eligible voter I have never failed to exercise my voting rights in federal, state, county, local elections…but first, always informed to the best of my abilities. Informed, involved citizens can make a difference.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Oh Vince, I am sure that you are a very informed voter. I just would like this ordeal to be over and hope to be happy with the results.

      Thanks a lot for keeping in touch – Alicja

  5. Don Richardson Says:

    Alicja: The same is happening in this country. The Rethugnicons are using every dirty trick to keep certain groups from voting—-Democratic. I am thinking of moving to Costa Rica. Both major candidates are just puppets of the financial/corporate/military elite, and democracy is dying. Greed has taken over the world and we are headed for a revolution! Don Richardson gaia@comporium.net Religions are the deadly enemy of a healthy, sustainable society.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hello Don,

      I do understand, perhaps not totally, the point you are making in this comment. However I am not ready, yet, to give up on this country. Are you really so fatigued and disappointed that you do not see any hope at all? And what are you going to do in Costa Rica?
      Alicja

  6. Mark Trocchi Says:

    See “BlueBush” on YouTube.  That’s a movie I made in year 2000 when I ran for President and addressed the same topics as your blog.   Too long a story to tell and, Wow, did we learn a lot when it comes to what makes people tick at voting time.  “Vote …… or Don’t” was the motto.   

      Mark Trocchi

    ________________________________

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hi Mark!

      I did not find your “BlueBush” movie on YouTube. Are you sure that it is still there? I would love to see it – please send me a good link. Thank you!

      With warm greetings from Tucson,
      Alicja


  7. [...] Notes on events, ideas & places « To Vote, or Not to Vote, that is NOT the Question. [...]


  8. Hi, I already wrote a reply and was unable to send it. So you might bet a version of this twice!

    I feel the same way you do about voting and make sure I return to to Tucson in time to vote in person. If people think their votes do not count, consider the several hundred vote difference that is making the McSally/Barber win shift as more votes are counted. More than a week after the election, we do not know who the winner is.

    And that does bring a concern to me. I have always wondered whether an absentee or early ballot counts. Many close elections were determined on election night, perhaps before all the votes were really counted.

    Reports say that half a million votes remained after the election that remained to be counted in Maricopa County. I wonder how many elections results are incorrect because early, absentee and military ballots were not counted. And why does it take more than 10 days to count the rest of the ballots not cast in person on election day?

    Am also glad you bring up the woman’s vote, Women forget that it took more than 75 years of constant pressure in spite of threats for women to get the right to vote. And we have not had that right for 100 years yet.

    Hope to see you at Susan’s tomorrow.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Dear Christina,

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment! I have to admit that I also have some concerns about absentee and early ballot counts. Nothing reassures me more than “being there” – casting my vote in person! I know, I know, it might be a bit too suspicious entertaining a possibility that some of the envelopes with absentee and early ballots could be lost, misplaced or forgotten, but…I fear that. In any case I am very glad that you support what I wrote. And the recent winning of Ron Barber is proof that every vote is of great importance!

      Thank you again, welcome back to Tucson, and see you soon.
      Also, have a very nice Thanksgiving tomorrow!
      Alicja


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