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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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.Explore posts in the same categories: Events, Memories, Opinions, Photo essays, Photo stories, Thoughts
Tags: Civil Rights Memorial, civil rights movement, Communist Poland, democracy, Election Day, Montgomery Alabama, National Voting Rights Museum, political campaigns, protest marches, Selma Alabama, voting, voting rights, voting rights movement, women's suffrageYou can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.