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Remember: When You Vote, You’re Not Doing Much At All

When I got my absentee ballot in the mail a few weeks ago, I remembered just how well this election game is constructed. As I unfolded the ballot and all the instructions, for an instant, I got quite excited. According to this election game, in my hand, I held a choice for the future of the nation. I was about to have an input on the next president, my state’s senator, some ballot questions. So I filled in the circles, rolled my eyes, put the ballot in the envelope, signed the certificate, put that in another envelope (fancy stuff) and then marched down to the mailbox, all while knowing I was playing a game — but still all while being excited about it.

And that was just from filling out an absentee ballot. Imagine the how proud one must feel after actually going to the polls?

Before this, I had almost forgotten how well those in power, aided by the mainstream media, pull off creating this democratic fantasy.  But after all, I guess that’s what a fascist “democracy” is supposed to do — make the public feel like they actually have a choice about whom they want to lead, and, perhaps more importantly, make them feel sufficient enough about their “political duty” of voting that they do not pursue any other political activity.

It’s brilliant, and it works. For a lot of people, voting is the most political activity they’ll engage in their entire lives.

That’s why we must filter out everything we’ve been told about voting, and remember that when we vote, we’re not doing much at all to better our society. Voting is the lowest form of political participation. Filling in a few small circles can only yield a few small changes.

However, these small changes may have a really big impact on some people’s lives. Access to health care, birth control, safe abortions, etc. can be life changing for some, and so it’s worth playing this year’s election game instead of turning our backs on those who need these policies.

But we must remember that in the grand scheme of things — in all of the possibilities for change — these changes are extremely small. After all, those in power would never give us the opportunity to make large changes that would threaten their control. But that is exactly the kind of change we need. And so in order to make this realchange, we need to do more than just vote.

We need to become involved in our communities, recognize the injustices all around us and fight for change. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially as we play the economic game of capitalism that oppresses us with work  — and the stress of it all leaves us yearning for distractions. But we must commit time to pushing for realchange as best and as much as we can.

And we must be this change as well. We have to see and engage in the politics all around us.  For example, we can’t afford to allow racist, sexist, classist or homophobic comments slip past us in daily conversations. We must challenge others and ourselves about what we’ve been told, while still approaching the world with a humble, empathetic openness — learning, listening, understanding, re-learning.

And perhaps, most importantly, we must really be there for one another and show each other that we’re not alone. Whether that looks like fighting against a foreclosure on your neighbor’s house or simply listening to a friend. Only when people feel united can realchange occur.

That’s why everyone who voted for Obama, the lesser of two evils, in order to slightly improve some lives, must continue the fight. And those whose lives were slightly improved must also continue the fight. We can’t become satisfied with voting and slight improvements — or else oppression will continue being felt worldwide.  

So as the election game finally concludes tonight — as the theatrics start winding down and the hysteria calms — we must remember that our vote didn’t do much, no matter the outcome. When we forget this, even for an instant, we become in danger of stopping the fight. And although this remembering is a very difficult task amidst the hype, we must be able to see past the illusions to recognize all the change that is possible.

So before you proudly sport that “I Voted” sticker or urge people to vote via Facebook status, be sure to think outside of the ballot box and consider ways you can become more politically active than this. Because if you think we can really change anything via voting on Election Day, well, you must remember — No we can’t.

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