The Myth of Voting

There is a very nasty lie that’s been gaining a lot of credibility in the past few election cycles (but especially in this one): namely, the idea that voting is not only a God-given right, but the supreme and ultimate responsibility one has in a democracy. The gist and seed of the argument were planted a few cycles ago, when folks began saying that those who didn’t vote had no room to criticize the government that won the election; and it’s reached a fever pitch over the past year, culminating in the idea that the most important and socially responsible thing we can possibly do is to vote.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is of course what every political party and elected official will tell you, because it is precisely how they gain and maintain power. But voting is not the most important civic duty that you have. First and foremost, you have a duty to take care of yourself: to adopt and maintain a lifestyle that is not only economically but psychologically viable. After that, you have a duty to engage in your community (read: your environment) in such a way that you at least attempt to make it a place you are proud to call home. This includes discussing your hopes, ideals and opinions with others within your community, and thereby refining them and learning to express them clearly; and in doing so, you will learn about the hopes, ideals and opinions of others, and learn to step outside of yourself and think about the truly political realm. Once you have done this, you will be capable of truly mature political thought: a form of reasoning that knows what belongs in the political sphere (and what doesn’t), and the practical steps that can be made in that sphere to have a positive effect on the lives of everyone in the community.

This is the heart of democracy — it’s the reason why the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press and the freedom to assemble were enshrined in the American constitution. The men who wrote that document knew quite well that discussion, debate, cooperation and mutual respect are the means by which progress and social gain are achieved. Voting is nothing more than the final stamp of approval that a society makes after a [supposedly] long and careful deliberation. This election cycle, I’m voting for long and careful deliberation.