Fulfilling your responsibility to vote

America was founded on one principle — a government can be run by the popular election of leaders. To that end, the U.S. holds elections every four years to decide who is worthy of leading the nation as a whole and its citizens as individuals.

I exercised that right Friday with the full knowledge that during this election year, as in past elections, only half of our fellow Americans will bother getting up and voting, either out of complete apathy or disgusting lethargy.

As a first-time voter and a proud patriot, it was an honor to fulfill my political obligations to my country. On the grand scale of politics, my vote was essentially insignificant, as many political cynics are quick to point out. Texas has swung as a red state for some time now, and it’s unlikely it will go blue for Obama this year.

But as an individual, my vote matters more than any other vote in the country. It’s not that it was my first vote in a federal election, but because it was the first of many chances for me to show my contempt or support on the current administration’s policies. I have officially bought a license to complain for the next four years.

As an opinion writer, I have to be able to speak my mind on public policy and administrative decisions.

Up until this point, though, I’ve essentially been blowing hot air because I have not voted, and have not officially committed one way or another for how I believe the country should be run.

Any citizen who refused to vote in the last election could not have any reason to complain about anything President Barack Obama has or hasn’t done; if they were  eligible to vote and be at the polls that day but chose not to because they thought they were wasting their time or that their vote didn’t matter, they have no right to complain.

Even with political tensions on both sides so high, and with such a tight race going on this year, there will still be people who won’t vote. They see no use for it and have no appreciation for the simple act of voting.

Millions have fought and died to preserve the right to vote. Men and women have marched and suffered countless indignities just so they can vote without persecution. People from across the world have come to America because they would rather live in a land that lets them decide for themselves how they would like to be ruled, instead of being ruled by some iron-fisted autocracy or outdated monarchy.

Not too long ago, CNN showed videos of Iraqi citizens — some of them young men and women — showing off their thumbs, covered in the black ink they used to vote at the polls. Some folks will criticize America’s place in Iraq and call it a hypocrisy. The true indisputable hypocrisy is how the American government said we went to Iraq to bring them democracy while half of the country doesn’t even vote.

No matter which party you affiliate with — Republican, Democrat or otherwise — there will be unhappiness with the president. In politics, everyone’s a critic. If people still want to complain about which of the candidates ruined the country best, they have to exercise their right to vote. Then they will get the right to complain.

James Wang is a history sophomore and can be reached at [email protected].

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