The Voter's Dilemma

I got into an interesting online discussion this weekend about voting and civil rights. The person that started the discussion was ranting about how limited our alleged "freedom" really is in America, and how we delude ourselves into supporting the "oppressive" regime that's slowly sucking our rights away from us. He then went on to characterize things like voting and owning guns as "privileges" and not "rights."

Granted, he wasn't exactly a sophisticated gent, and I can somewhat understand his position regarding his "privileges" - he has a friend who's a convicted felon and has had his civil rights suspended (common practice). However, this doesn't mean that voting or bearing arms are "privileges" - they're "rights" and unless suspended by the government (for cause or not), they're protected by the full strength of the Constitution.

Of course, that begs the question as to how strong the Constitution is anymore, in an era of Ashcrofts and Rumsfelds out there trying to "protect" us from ourselves. And I honestly can say that I believe we're still the most free country in the world, even if we have been sacrificing our rights to feel more safe since 9/11.

But whose fault is it really if we wind up losing these rights? Well, folks...the blame falls squarely on all of us. Each and every person out there who decided not to vote, or decided to vote along party lines, or decided to vote without really investigating the voting record of any member of the House, Senate, or Presidency. And if you're not among those three groups, I salute you - though I really doubt there are many of you out there.

That's the real problem with America nowadays - it's not that not enough people are voting (although there are definitely concerning statistics about the voting habits of the poor or minority populations...but lest I digress...); it's simply that the people who are voting are not doing so intelligently. Making a voting decision based on what party a person is with simply isn't enough nowadays. The lines between the two parties are so blurred on everything except the most extreme topics like abortion, gay rights, flag-burning, and so many more, that it's nearly impossible to simply vote Republican or Democrat and actually be making a decision.

So what about third party candidates? In my experience, they've been little better in general than a Republican or Democrat - they all seem to focus on one or two incredibly sensitive (and in the grand scheme of things, less important than a well-rounded approach) topics, and let those define who they are and what they stand for. "I'm pro-choice, anti-gun control, and pro-gay rights! Vote for me!"

The bottom line is that nothing's going to get better in this country until people start taking their right to vote and influence seriously. It's somewhat like sitting on a jury - there, you have the fate of one person sitting in your hands; you may even be holding the decision whether they live or die. Nobody takes this responsibility lightly - why do they take the responsibility for ensuring their freedom, for ensuring their prosperity, and for protecting the lives of all Americans so lightly? That's what voting really is, people - the right to keep us all safe.