Being “a self-important clown” isn’t something that most people will like to hear, but as someone who spends time observing and evolving, your views do shift.
As in the case of the election last week. One of the common themes about voting is that if you don’t vote, then you should not have a voice or an avenue to talk about the issues.
I used to be one of those people, as this post in 2010 can attest to.
Therefore, I am a “self-important clown”, and I deserved it.
Here is my “mea culpa”.
Over the past 10 months, my view has changed with regards to how we treat and dismiss people who are do not follow politics and do not vote, and when they speak out about issues that are important, voters dismiss them for not doing their “civic duty.”
This took shape over the past week when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Kaep for short) announced that he did not vote because he had deep reservations about both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, alluding to the “systemic oppression” that continues to be prevalent in the United States with respects to African-Americans.
Kaepernick has been critical of both candidates for months. “You have Hillary [Clinton], who has called black teens or black kids super predators,” he said in August. “You have Donald Trump, who is openly racist.”
“I’ve been very disconnected from the systematic oppression as a whole,” he told reporters. “So, for me, it’s another face that’s going to be the face of that system of oppression.
“And to me, it didn’t really matter who went in there (to be elected), the system still remains intact that oppresses people of color,” he added.
-Michael Sebastian, Esquire Magazine, November 10, 2016
The reaction, no surprise, was one of furor…by voters.
Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s resident loud-mouthed television troll, spent nearly 15 minutes calling Kaepernick a ‘hypocrite”, because he did not vote. Ironically, Kaepernick is on the forefront of speaking about the escalating and long-running issue of race and police brutality.
That is when it struck me. Here is a dude who felt compelled to take a knee to protest and elicit conversation about the current treatment of African-Americans in this country, and the people who supported him are admonish him for not voting.
Several days later, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Mike Evans sat down during the national anthem to protest the election of Trump. When asked if he voted, Evans said no, citing that he is not a political person. On the following day, he apologized for sitting down and offered to find another way to address the situation.
Evans received the same vitriol that Kaepernick received.
Evans and Kaepernick are individuals who are not political or follow politics by any means. And yet, they were chastised for not voting by people who did vote.
“If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”
I was so wrong with that statement.
Voters, including me, are the ultimate hypocrites.
I’ve written this in the past about how I view politics: I don’t tell people how or who to vote. I will amend this with the following: if someone is not interested in politics, they should not have to vote.
That is what nearly 47% of the nation did….not vote. They’re fed up with the state of affairs in this country. That was their protest vote, if that’s how you want to spin it.
Clinton and Trump had way too much baggage and their actions speak for themselves.
What Kaep said drove home the point: it didn’t matter who was elected, it was going to be business as usual, and neither Clinton or Trump was going to seriously address racial relations.
Bomani Jones of ESPN talked about the Evans story on Monday afternoon and disassembled the myth about the importance of voting as it relates to someone having an opinion.
The monologue begins around the 10:00 mark.
Voting gives people the faux sense that they are making a difference, when they are really not, as Jones pointed out (and rightfully so). Putting on a “I Voted!” sticker, to show people how “patriotic” we are and our obligation to perform a civic duty, and then flaunt that in the face of others reeks of selective elitism.
When did having a “vote” gives you the authority to tell people who didn’t vote that they shouldn’t complain or say anything that they see as an issue?
It is not a civic duty. It is a choice.
If it is such a civic duty, then why do we vote, if we have no interest to vote, especially for these two candidates that America was unhappy about?
So we can get a sticker and feel individually empowered without any guilt? Does voting empower us to act like raving lunatics and lose our shit over an election?
If that is the case, then all of us are fear mongers.
What does that prove?
If you had a choice, who would you not see vote? Someone who believes in conspiracy theories, a racist, a misogynist, or someone who is not well-informed about the issues, and yet have an opinion?
Many of you would prefer that all of them don’t vote.
But…they do vote. If you try to keep them from voting, you are in fact suppressing them from voting. Jones’ argument is that voters go out of their way to dismiss the view of those who are not political, by using the “did you vote?” rationale as an excuse.
There is a lot of places around in America that are trying to suppress voters these days. You will talk about that, but we ignore our level of suppression towards those who may vote for someone who you oppose, or doesn’t vote at all.
Just because we vote, it does not and should not, make us feel entitled and privileged to tell those who chose not to vote that their opinion and their causes do not matter.
We, the voters, are suppressing people’s voices, all in the name of a “civic duty” that we are “obligated” to do.
That’s being a hypocrite.
We live in America, where we are free to make choices. Third world citizens would do anything to live here and be free to live however they choose.
To tell them that they have to vote for the sake of voting, is hollow.
If people do not see any reason to be politically active or take part in something they are not crazy about, then they are free to do what they want.
They pay taxes too.
I will no longer dismiss anyone who are interested and concern about the issues that are important to them, without holding a pithy obligation to perform a civic duty over their heads.
Oh, and voters, stop being assholes, including me.