At this point, I’m sure you are ready for the smear campaign ads, the soapbox posts from your Facebook friends, and for some of you, even those door knockers going around in your neighborhood with the “have you voted/who did you vote for” surveys, to disappear and be done. 2016 has been an ugly, brutal mess of opposing opinions and opposing solutions to the problems that face our modern day society.
I’ll start this post with a promise to you that this is not another one-sided argument to vote for or against candidate X – it’s a reminder that as an American, your civic duty is not to vote, it is to be a contributing member of society.
Volunteer your Time and Resources
Here in North Carolina we have been hammered with natural disaster after natural disaster with a little bit of human disaster mixed in as well. From flooding to Charlotte’s riots to gas shortages, we have had plenty of devastation throughout the past year. There are people like you or me who need help. Can you imagine waking up one day and losing your entire home with all your possessions to a flood? How about losing your small business to looting and protestors in Charlotte? Hopefully you have insurance and these items can be replaced, but the lasting impact is much greater. Show empathy to these people – find a way to get involved and help, even if it’s a couple hours or just a couple of bucks; compassion goes a long way. If you are interested in helping, and don’t know how to, feel free to send me a message (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll be happy to help!
When you are aware of natural disasters, particularly those close to home, you tend to be more aware of local politicians and community leaders and how they handle these challenges. I believe the best way to judge a politician and their ability to handle their positions of leadership is by the way they handle daily challenges, not these outrageous ads that have taken over our televisions and radios.
Know about Local Positions
Unfortunately you probably already know who’s running for President, and maybe even Senate or Congress, but do you know whom your State Representative is? How about what positions are open on the local school board or your local District Court judges? These positions have more of an impact on your daily life than the President, yet they are seldom talked about on the same level. Take some time to look at what positions are being challenged this election, and then take a look at the candidates.
Do your own Research
These days it’s next to impossible to read an article on the Internet or watch the news without some type of bias. That being said, don’t rely on one article or one Facebook post to dictate your entire opinion on the subject – read and reference multiple sites with differing opinions. That way you can form a balanced opinion once taking in both sides of any argument.
This final topic is the simplest: just be kind. You don’t know what kind of day that parent in front of you at the grocery store has had or the story behind the driver who cut you off on the highway this morning. Be kind, be sympathetic, and when possible, help one another. There are plenty of evils in our world, so do whatever small part you can to help the lives of those around you.
Voting is a Test
I see voting the same way I see taking a final exam. Making the choice to bubble in a couple of names on a sheet of paper does not qualify you as a participating member of society – what matters is the time you put in leading up to voting and choosing your candidates for your own reasons and convictions based on facts. Simply bubbling in option “c” for every answer after you didn’t prepare for your test may buy you a couple correct answers, but in the end your only hurting yourself.
Here’s a crazy concept – imagine you are in your voting booth filling out your ballot and you come across a position with 2 candidates you know absolutely nothing about. It’s completely okay to leave a spot blank! If you know nothing about the candidates who have applied and worked so hard to run for this position, don’t randomly guess for your answer – you could be doing more harm or even end up voting for someone who does not reflect your value or beliefs. Not voting is always an option.
I would love to hear from you! What are some ways you stay involved in your community?