Yesterday at 4:00 a.m. UK time, one of my friends (an American citizen currently living in London) tuned in to watch the first 2012 presidential debate, live. To her surprise, she soon found out that she hadn’t been alone. All around her, people were referencing the debate, discussing, and arguing about the candidates and American domestic policy. That’s when my friend came to an important realization, and she posted it as her status on Facebook:
“…with our right to vote–something most of us get for simply being born within a special geography–we are handed so much influence over our entire world. Not only are we given a right to our bodies, to guns, to religious tolerance, and educations, Americans have the right to choose the ‘Leader of the Free World.’ Vote, and vote responsibly.
I contemplated this post for a while… Sure, the way the U.S. population votes does have a significant influence on people in other countries, but what if we compare that to the influence it has over the hundreds of thousands of families who live within our borders and under our government’s jurisdiction, but have no voting rights?
We often define universal suffrage as what it means to grant the right to vote to all U.S. citizens over 18. A lot of us think that, since our laws no longer exclude or prevent women and African Americans from going to the polls, we are somehow on our way to creating a perfect, representational democracy. This notion is erroneous in so, so, so many ways, and it is clearly visible if you look at the discrepancy between our country’s demography and representation. As long as there are laws that prevent immigrants (documented and undocumented) from participating in our democracy, we cannot call this country truly republican. There are tons of people, our neighbors and friends perhaps, who live in the U.S. for decades, assimilate, pay taxes, harvest our food, send their kids to our schools, and yet don’t have a say, even on issues that meddle with their human rights. Think about how much power the federal government has over them. Can we truly call ourselves a democracy while we continue to forbid them from having any kind of power over our government?
–Okay people, those of you who are lucky enough to have voting rights, what are you going to do this November? “Vote, and vote responsibly.”