On November 8th, America will be making an important decision. But it’s not really that important. Really.Am I a disenchanted millennial voter that’s off her rocker? Let me explain.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been inundated with political conversations from the talking heads on TV, your friends, that uncle you never talk to anymore on Facebook, and the like. It’s all very overwhelming. Maybe you contribute to the conversation. Maybe you remain silent. “Whose idea was this?” you think to yourself as our nation erupts into a hotbed of polarizing opinions.
This is one of the privileges of democracy, is it not? The right to elect a leader to represent us. The right to make our voice heard. However, the unfortunate thing is that most of us think that this privilege is to be used once every four years, on Election Day. And that’s where I believe we’re failing as a nation.
Don’t get me wrong: the Presidential Election is very important. When you vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson or whoever else, you are making a choice between values, values that are more polarized than ever. The person we elect to represent us as President casts a vision for where we see ourselves as a nation far beyond a four-year term. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Our vote is an assessment of our character, both as individuals and as a nation. But think about this for a second: do you really think a single person can really and truly govern over 322 million people? Republican, Democrat, or other, this significantly overestimates someone’s capabilities. And yes, while the President has the power to veto legislation, and acts with executive capabilities, there is a lot they CANNOT do…
They cannot eradicate poverty.
They cannot end racism.
They cannot prevent acts of violence.
They cannot make our decisions for us.
Yes your taxes may go up and down a few dollars depending on who is elected. Wars may be started or avoided because of our next President. They are one of the most influential people in the world. But they are still one person. To expect that a single individual within a certain office has the power to overturn and fix colossal issues that persist is a vast overestimation of their power and a severe underestimation of our own.
Every day, we are given a choice. A choice to live in love, generosity, and understanding, or a choice to live in hatred, selfishness, and ignorance. These choices manifest themselves in a variety of ways—how we treat those we know and those we don’t, what we choose to share on social media, the kinds of activities we participate in. Why do we place more importance on a single decision we make once every four years than the thousands of decisions we make each day?
The truth is, things like poverty, racism, bigotry, and violence are an accumulation of individual decisions made by each one of us. Gandhi once said that “we must wish to be the change we seek in the world.” Instead of placing the responsibility of our future and our children’s futures in the hands of someone we will most likely never meet, why don’t we place it in our hands? There are very few people who will lie on their deathbeds reflecting on how much influence a politician had in their lives; most often, it’s the ordinary people, each one of us, that really made all the difference.
If you’re still looking to expand your reach of influence beyond your own sphere, again, there are countless opportunities beyond Election Day. Things like poverty, racism, gun violence, and others exist outside of the sound bytes of election politics. Join an organization committed to those issues; offer your time, resources, and ideas. There are so many important causes that aren’t looking for a Presidential wave-of-a-wand to remedy an issue: they’re looking for people just like you and I, people who are willing to do the long and slow and hard work of democracy.
And while many of us are so intimately acquainted with Donald Trump’s hidden recordings and Hillary Clinton’s emails, can you name a single member of your city council? What about who’s running for State Assembly? As someone who worked on a state campaign, I can tell you first-hand that the lack of interest in local and state politics is shocking, especially considering that these are the people in charge of fixing your roads, overseeing school funding, and countless other decisions that affect us much more personally than national politics. Attend forums and meetings. Sit down with one of your local representatives (trust me, they are much more accessible than the President). Consider running for office or offering support to someone who does. We are not a monarchy—there are many significant ways to create social change that are simply overlooked because they’re not as glamorous as The Presidency.
I hope you’re not reading this post and thinking that I am discrediting the Presidential Election: it IS very important. In my opinion, the choice between values could not be clearer. But for those of you who are fed up of political banter, who are fearful about the direction our country is taking, and don’t feel like they can trust our country’s future with a singular candidate—maybe it’s time to reconsider your focus. An enlightened individual is a powerful individual. A group of enlightened individuals is a force to be reckoned with. And a nation that realizes that democracy is a choice we make daily and not just at the ballot box? That is a nation that rises above our troubled waters.Power is a matter of perspective. Honor and exercise your own with truth and humility. And if anything I said resonated with you, than maybe you too, can become President.