In my country, elections time is always full of heated emotions. Here our governmental is system has close resemblance to Westminster and we have our re-election every five years. This time round, the opposing party one all fifteen seats in government, leaving us with no opposing party (always scary in any part of life) and my humble land has yet again made history in the Caribbean as the only country who has had the same party win every seat in government twice.
That's not even what I'm writing about today though, I had a lot on my mind the last time elections came around because it was the first time I really felt like a citizen who would truly be seriously affected by the decisions of my country, not just a kid with the ability to vote.
Today is another big day in my country's history, we are going to the polls again, this time for constitutional reform. Today, I wanted to write a little about the choice to vote.
It's a topic that has actually swirled about in my mind for quite some time. There are always those people who tell you that you simply must vote, after all, it is your right to so do. There are also those who tell you that you really don't have to do anything. Now, both those people are right; you do not have to do anything in life really, you could just sit at home and wait to die too if it fit your fancy...
What I find most disconcerting is when the masses are told that you should not vote or register to vote, not because you have a choice but because you want to be defiant.
The only point in life when I can stand defiant as a valid reason to do or not do anything is in toddlers, just learning to talk, who are saying 'no' to everything simply because they have just realized and are learning that their voice has weight and makes an impact. They eventually grow out of it and realise that it is okay to say yes to the things you want and no to the things you don't.
I feel adults should be able to do the same.
Now these thoughts really started to make me think when I read a status of a friend of mine, urging everyone to remember that just as they have a right to vote, they also have a right not to vote and that they shouldn't let anyone convince them to vote simply because it is their right to do so. Again, I can get behind that, down with peer pressure! However, she made a statement I had struggled with when I was younger too. She implied that if you make the choice to vote when the options have a history of not full filling promises, knowing this, you 'loose the right to complain'
I found this an interesting take and decided to voice my disagreement as like I said, I used to be of that particular persuasion at some point. We discussed it a little, with her asking
"Why? Unless you were drunk when you voted, you knew full well what you were doing, and what would happen, but did it anyway. So I don't want to hear a word of complaint from your mouth after doing that."
I think that to choose to vote for a representative is to choose to vote for the ideals they say they stand for and the actions they outline in their manifesto. To say you 'KNEW' that they were lying is pretty much impossible unless you're a mind reader. However, if they get there, having said they would stand for you as a citizen of this country, in a particular way and then don't do so...then as a citizen of this country, you have EVERY right to protest their lies and the bad decisions they have chosen to make for your country.
The responsibility of the voter does not end on election day, it is also your responsibility to encourage or protest the actions of the government you put into power. That's why we have such things as the sitting of parliament in PUBLIC within the eyes of the people, the choice of calling your representative and asking for a town hall meeting and if I remember correctly, representatives of the people from the public sector. That last one I'll have to re check my notes on the specifics of though
(I did, yes we do, as senators).
While I do not believe anybody should be pressured to vote or not to vote I also believe that as a voter you give yourself even more of a platform to say boldly and publicly 'stick to what you took and oath and promised me.' My friend expanded on their perspective, proposing the following:
" That's all true, but if you know enough about a person/ party to date, have seen what they did, have seen what became of their promises you should be able to know whether that kind of person will or will not stick to what they said.
And I wasn't really talking about contesting bad leadership, I was mostly talking about literally sitting down and whining to anyone who would reluctantly listen, about how bad the government is.
Basically, if you have all the reasons laid out for you as to why not to vote for a person/ party, but do it any way, and they don't live up to your unfounded expectations, don't whine about it.
If you know someone is a compulsive liar, and then they tell you something and swear it's the truth then later you find out it was a lie, you can't go and make a big deal out of it, because you knew from the beginning that they were a compulsive liar."
Now let me continue by saying, while i see well where my friend is coming from, i am still inclined to disagree. You see, it is easy to say that people in government lie and cheat when we have so much political propaganda clouding the way our media works. Campaigners know that all one needs is a shadow of a doubt to turn the minds of the people in the direction you want it to go, often it works too.
My point is, far too often and for too long i believe my people have let themselves believe that they do not have a right to argue a point against the party they support. We have got to get out of this mentality of party politics. That you can only support one party, for the rest of your life, never change your mind, never listen to what the other side has to say.
I do not believe in party politics, I do not believe in wearing any colour or jersey to support for whom I am voting I believe that this is my business and my business alone. Do not ask me. I will not tell you. Whoever comes into governance, as a citizen of this country, regardless of whether my voice counted toward putting them up their or not, you better believe i am going to say 'no' when they do something that is not going to benefit my country and 'good job' when they do.
In all honesty, just as people who vote knowing the history of others pissed my friend off, it was easy for me to understand their perspective because people who do not vote period, pissed me off so much when I was younger. When I was younger I felt: but you said nothing, not a peep in either direction, not yay nor nay so what gives you the right to say anything now?
Then I realised...politics is suppose to provide an opportunity for citizens to listen to ALL sides and make an informed decision. Not make the decision of their parents, handed down through generations, not make a decision inspired by fear of victimization because our country is so small and 'everyone will know' who you support because for some reasons, even though we have a secret ballad system, people feel the need to shout at the top of their voices the decision they plan to make on election day. Not a decision made because changing your mind is considered treasury, deserving of you loosing your pay check when the party you did not support comes into rule. Changing your mind it's treason, it's education. It's considering new information when it becomes available and considering it. It is not weakness, it is learning.
We are all toiling under the same sun, loving the same beaches and bathing in the same sea. Why aren't we all deserving of the same right to protest and or support? We are and we need, ever so desperately, to stop letting people convince us of otherwise. I vote because I don't want to be just a voice, I want to be a voice that was counted. I thank God for choice.
This post was started on the day my country held it's last general elections and recently edited that's why my watermarked photos hold my previous blog title.