In 2008, I was a member of the nation-wide group that was “fired up” to vote for the first time for the presidential election. I skipped class to see the candidates speak and I volunteered as precinct captain for my district. I read all of the plans to bring hope to America. It felt like I was truly a part of something bigger than myself. I was not just casting a ballot, but really contributing to the change we needed. It was really exciting.
Fast forward to the 2016 election. There are probably more memes, SNL skits, and ridiculous quotes for this particular election to last us a lifetime. You know I do not get into politics on my blog and I am not going to tell you who you should vote for or who I am planning to vote for. I want to speak to the disappointing difference between the 2008 election and the 2016 election. We all might joke about it, but the feeling of frustration and despondency is real. We cannot allow this to kill the hope and motivation we had 8 years ago.
We need to remember that this election is not just about voting for the next president. Your energy for change and passion for justice should also be focused on your local community. With the amount of foundations, community-based programs, and young people stepping up to run for office, there is a lot more you can do to improve your neighborhood that goes beyond casting a ballot. As much as social media has helped us to connect and support each other, we still need to show up in person and make a point to attend a town hall or volunteer for a community initiative.
You have to keep the bigger picture in perspective. Choosing not to vote or consistently complaining about everything that is wrong with (insert name, city, business, or school here) is not productive. That mindset gives into feeling helpless. Educate yourself on the issues you care about and what is being done in your community to fix it. If you find something, consider volunteering. If there is nothing, explore starting something.
It seems like most people get too caught up with complaining about every headline, trend, and policy. It is ok to admit you are one of those people. Imagine if you used that time to really understand the history, politics, and motive behind any of those issues. Equipped with that knowledge, smoke screens and marketing gimmicks would never phase you.
I feel your duty does not start or stop with wearing that “I voted” sticker. It is constantly in motion with every action and decision you make. Let us promise each other, regardless of elephants, donkeys, or third animals, that we will not let the hope die.
How are you planning to make your vote count? What resources do you use to learn about issues and politics in your community? Let me know in the comments below.