October 23, 2012

You’ve Got a Voice- Use It

by

When I watched President Obama’s acceptance speech in 2008, I was in college in Montana, with the gray wall of late autumn boxing us into our dorm room. I got texts and calls from friends in Chicago rushing to stand among the hundreds of thousands of people packed into Grant Park- bundled up and involuntarily pressed together for warmth as Barack Obama gave his victory speech.

Far away in Montana, I cried. It was my first election I was old enough to vote in. I felt, for the first time, a part of something magnificent and big. I was even more surprised that the swelling in my chest wasn’t from the fact that my guy won, but from watching a landscape of faces, many as young as my own, weep and hold each other as one man promised a future that we voted for. We did. I looked at those faces, and then at the face of Barack Obama, and realized that we chose him. It was an agency I had never felt before.

Also, I had made some really delicious red, white, and blue cupcakes. I had a lot to be proud of.

Four years later, I can’t imagine giving up the right to have my tiny, but very opinionated, voice heard. The power to vote is often undermined by people saying one voice does not matter. That skipping out on voting isn’t a big deal, what can it change? But throwing your hat in the ring is a vulnerable step. It’s hoping, it’s betting, and it’s finding out that your voice is remarkably similar to voices of people you’ve never met, and maybe never will. It allows you to take responsibility for the world you’re creating, and realize you can’t do it alone.

Your voice matters because what we’re striving for, what we’re going for as a United States of America, is finally reaching that explosive chorus. Where we as a nation can speak up at once and harmonize without dissonance. And we can’t do that if you stay quiet. We can’t do that without practice, without trust, and without a certain amount of risk.

I have been so proud to see so many local artists using their voices, voices that many fans believe in because of what their music means, to encourage everyone to take a stand for what they believe in.  From Macklemore’s “Same Love” to The Head and the Heart’s video for Obama, to Musicians for Marriage Equality, they have demonstrated passion and conviction in humanity that gives me both Seattle pride, and American pride. The good kind. The kind with guitars, and fewer angry YouTube comments.

And with that- I won’t waffle either:

As it is today, we are facing a critical time in the nation. The civil rights of many people, from the gay community, to women, are being questioned and threatened. We are in the middle of an economy that is on the rise, but still struggling. (Not that I know- as a writer, I am pretty much set for life). I did not write this piece to tiptoe around my views. I believe that civil rights are not a bi-partisan issue. I believe they are a fundamental right, and regardless of party line, whoever opposes basic rights like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, or Ref. 74, will not get my vote.

I’m all for gray area when it comes to taxes and how to get the economy on its feet. These are tough issues, and opinions are scattered, varied, and valid. I have much to learn about them. But making the nation an equal playing ground for human rights is not a gray area. America has worked so hard for civil rights in its fledgling life, and to elect someone who wants to halt that brave progress is outrageous and damaging. Just to make myself clear.

That was my risk. If people I admire, people whose music inspires me, can say what they mean so boldly, then so can I.

So risk it. Take a stand. Listen to other voices (I’m having lunch with a coworker who does not particularly agree with me, but is still a lovely human), inform yourself, find what you believe, because when you do, and when you start to hope- that’s when politics becomes more than bickering and pundits. That’s when it becomes the vehicle we have to get where we want to go.

2 Comments

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  1. Dan #

    Great post. The more people can make a stand to endorse what they actually believe, rather than asking a major political party to make those difficult choices for them, the more our government will represent who we are and what is important to us as a people. Too often in parts of the world like ours (along with states like Alabama, Massachusetts, Georgia, etc), one political party becomes de facto representation for a varied population. I believe this is a hindrance to the responsibility we have to have our voices heard. Your favorite musician or actor may have a well-thought-out stance on a variety of issues that could align perfectly with your own. They may also make decisions the same way many of us do, which is to say they fall in line with their peers in a self-perpetuating cycle of ignorance that you can support by relying on their investigation. I would encourage everyone to do your own research, make your own decisions and don’t compromise to the “lesser of two evils”. Don’t be manipulated by the sources of your information, or even by friends and family who surely have good intentions. I think that people take responsibility for their role in our republic, they will find that our two party system manipulates its members and compromises their reality. Don’t be a pawn, and don’t succomb to peer pressure, or celebrity pressure, or religious pressure, etc. As soon as people decide that voting for what they beleive in is their responsibility, and not a waste of a vote that is futile in the face of the establishment of Republicans and Democrats, we will have true freedom and not beholden to mass culture manipulation. You also might find that there are a lot of folks who are similarly minded, but at the very least, it will force our government to work as a single unit able to compromise nimbly rather than two forces which will hold each other hostage while villifying and dividing their constituencies.

  2. I love your write-up. I’m not USAmerican and I won’t be voting in your coming elections, but most of what you said is truly universal and I like the way you express your opinion.

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