Duane Holmes: Failure to vote is surrender

October 6, 2012 

So, you don't vote. You don't think your vote counts; it won't make a difference.

You are angry because you can't find a good job and you can't make ends meet. The economy is in the dumps, taxes are too high, your kids are having problems in school, the crime rate has you scared.

You don't vote because you think it won't change things. Or could it be that things are the way they are because you don't vote?

You don't vote because you are rebelling against a system that you consider unjust and corrupt. How will this change if you are not involved, if your voice is not heard? When you skip voting, it's not rebellion; it's surrender.

You are not happy with the way your government is being run? You think that "they" will do whatever "they" want regardless of whether you vote or not? But who are "they"? "They" are your elected officials who were put into office by those who did vote. You didn't vote, so you gave away your voice in the matter. If you don't vote, don't complain. You gave away that privilege to someone who did vote.

Have you been silent too long? Things won't change until you change them. The only way to do that is to become active in your community and vote. Vote in support of those issues and candidates that are in your own best interest. If you don't, you have lost the privilege to have your voice heard and will be subject to conforming to policies that you don't support.

Nationwide apathy is disturbing, but it is even more so in the Central Valley and particularly in Merced. Just 25 percent of Merced's registered voters actually vote. In the last city election it took just 2,231 votes out of 24,708 registered voters, in a city of 80,000, to elect a mayor. Did you ever think that the problems that plague this fair city exist because you didn't vote? It is your duty, your responsibility as a citizen to be active in your community and vote.

Citizenship comes with duties and responsibilities. A responsible citizen does not neglect them.

Sitting on your couch watching TV and saying that all politicians are crooks and liars is lazy and nonproductive. You can't expect a different outcome from these "crooks and liars" if your underlying behavior remains the same.

I know this community is composed of bright, intelligent, creative people who somehow think they don't have any influence. But you must participate. "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any," said author and activist Alice Walker.

Take the time to learn about the issues. An uninformed voter is just as detrimental to the process as a nonvoter. There is a wealth of information available for every side of every issue from the Internet, your local library, news outlets, the League of Women Voters, Project Vote Smart, community advocacy groups, etc. Don't just listen to your family, your friends, your neighbors or your co-workers. Do your own research and vote in your own best interest.

Have you been silent too long? Is it time to let your voice be heard? Another author, Studs Terkel, was quoted as saying: "Heroes ... are people who say: This is my community, and it is my responsibility to make it better."

Are you a hero?

Holmes is a retired small business owner and licensed land surveyor. He lives in Merced.

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