What Voting Has Taught Me

What Voting Has Taught Me

The positive highlights of voting, in spite of this election cycle.
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*Disclaimer: This is not where I would like to address my political position. If you want to know, just ask later.

As of writing this article, the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election/Comedy/Horror Show/Parody is coming down to the home stretch, and everybody is either,

1. Freaking out about what the outcome is, with some reactions on hold for the worst-case scenario,

2. Tired of the nonsense coming out of wherever they can access the news, and

3. Decided whom they were going to vote for and therefore, wants to relax for a moment or never hear about it again.

Thus, we have a negative atmosphere over what will be a pivotal election cycle, no matter which candidate wins. Even with this sense of foreboding, some of us might decide to not vote.

I want to say, first and foremost, this is my first year voting for American political offices. I’ve been thinking about it since I’ve turned eighteen a year, seven months, and four days ago. Like a bunch of other people, I have never expected to see an election filled with vermin and atmospheric consequences and drama out of a favorite television series. At the same time, amidst the chaos ensuing into a hurricane, I’m learning a bit about we conduct the political process.

First, all of us want to see a better political future. Hearing about the effects of climate change and the possibility our generation might be worse off than in previous ones, amplified by the political rhetoric we hear, it’s hard to see that. I’d like to think that we just have different routes on where our country should go. Of course, it’s never that easy; everyone, more likely than not, will disagree with each other’s points of view. Basing on this, I learned I had to find where I stand, but hope compromise will come out in the future.

Second, based on that view, voting can enhance critical thinking skills. Poring over Politifact, hoping the moderators would call out on one of the candidates when they get a fact wrong, and analyzing the candidates’ political positions repeatedly to make the right decision, we learn quickly that there’s a lot more than meets the eye. And deciding which rhetoric can be ironclad versus one that blows in the wind is also difficult, as we lean towards who’s coughing, sniffling, or more affirmative. But once we get out of that lens of image, it’s the ideas that are important.

On the other hand, voting is just one of many things a citizen can do to participate. Personally, I think my vote is almost game-changing, and the only way I could make a difference. However, politics is not only the headlines for one election cycle, it’s a lot of day to day decisions and actions. I’ve heard of friends heading different groups for different causes, volunteering for political campaigns, and going out to protest. So, if we want to go out and make change, the one thing we could is use our talents for different causes. And follow news reports more often than right now.

Amidst the pessimism and vitriol thrown out in this election, we still have something to look forward to as first-time voting youth. We get to see how the political process goes on when campaigning, realizing what we want from our government, and learning about how we enhance our role in public policy. We have seen the worst stuff presidential campaigns have to offer, and now can use what we know to improve the future.

To do so, we also should vote.

Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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