Last June on the day of the primary elections, I pulled up my car to park at the school where I have been voting for many years. If it weren’t for the campaign signs dotting the landscape and lining the street curbs, I would’ve thought I had the wrong date. The campaign volunteers and election officials significantly outnumbered the people who came out to vote.
Let me ask you a question: Are you a complainer? You may very well have some good reasons to complain.
But what are you doing to change whatever you’re complaining about?
It was quite disappointing to see such a terrible turnout that day. Yes, there was no waiting or long lines. But there also was no positive energy and no excitement about picking our leaders of the future.
Later that evening, while listening for the final results and hearing the calculations of how many of us actually voted, I finally realized that our country has entered an era that spells the beginning of the end for our great civilization.
I know that sounds pretty harsh, but where are we really headed?
Most of us have “heard it all” before, and rightfully so. We don’t have any confidence that our elected leaders are really going to find a way to solve our problems. And this obviously leads to the attitudes of, “Why bother going to vote? It won’t make a difference either way. If I vote, one vote won’t make a difference.”
Well, keep in mind that the Democratic candidate for Baltimore County executive, John Olszewski Jr., beat his closest rival by a mere 17 votes last June. So you might want to think again.
Voting is still the most powerful way we can make our voices heard in our society. And the best way to make changes. Voting in a fair and free democracy is still — and always will be — the most precious and powerful facet of freedom of speech.
But when our fellow citizens don’t vote, what are they telling us? Are they angry? Do they not care? Are they just lazy?
So what can we do about it? When I encounter someone complaining about our government and leaders, I politely interrupt and ask, “Did you vote?” It certainly catches a lot of people off-guard.
When they say, “No, I didn’t,” I respond with, “Well then, you probably lost your best chance to do something about it all by not voting. And quite frankly, when people you’re not very fond of do get elected, it may be time to look in the mirror.”
By not voting, you’re sending a message to our incumbent elected officials that everything is OK just the way it is. And when someone answers, “Yes, I did vote,” please thank them and continue to listen to the conversation.
Whoever came up with the concept of the novel and movie series, “The Hunger Games,” seems to have a good grasp on where we’re headed. It’s that of a divided nation run by one Capital City, with military police quelling any and all protests. If we don’t wake up soon, The Hunger Games will be here before we know it.
So please vote, all the time. It’s certainly worth the effort.
And if you don’t, sorry but you’ve thrown away your right to complain.
A former businessman with an extensive background in community service, Charlie Levine is founder and executive director of the Team Up For 1 Foundation, a nonprofit that connects children with challenges to the experience of team sports. He is also former executive director of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.