- I want to be allowed to hate bikers and others who disobey traffic laws
- Civic duty
I do this thing wherein I don’t jaywalk.
This is a habit that annoys people. I’m a New Yorker, from a family of New Yorkers—short New Yorkers, even, and, if you’re not short, allow me to illuminate the short and urban experience to you: You learn to walk very quickly, both to keep up with friends and to keep strangers from stepping on you. So every time I refuse to jaywalk instead of dashing across the street with everyone else, I gum up the works entirely. I am often sighed at. I am even more often mocked.
I refuse to jaywalk for a couple of reasons, neither of which relate to a fear of being run over. (See above: I can move fast when I have to.) No, I refuse to jaywalk because:
These reasons can also be applied to the other thing I do, as a point of personal pride.
I vote. I vote in every single election: primary, general, local, and federal. I have voted each and every time that I was old enough to do so. Voting, depending on where you live and your circumstances, can also get you sighed at and mocked. You should still do it.
Let me ask you a question: Are you angry right now? My guess is that you are. It’s impossible to live in America today and not be angry. I know I’m very, very angry. And, no, despite what I said above, I don’t believe that hate should be cultivated as a general rule (except toward grown adults in business casual blowing through red lights on scooters—get your lives together). But anger is different.
We live in a representative democracy, at least theoretically. That means that if you’re playing by the rules, nothing gets changed, nothing, unless people raise their collective hands and point to someone who agrees with them. Anger demands voting to be productive—to be anything less than maddening. It’s not all that we can do to channel our anger, but it is a fundamental building block.
But what if, non-voters say, I vote and nothing changes? What then? What’s the point? This is why you have to keep voting, every single time. Our system is not set up for swift, decisive changes. You have to keep pushing. I don’t think anyone’s anger is going away anytime soon. So use it. Vote every chance you get. Scream into a void if you must, but also do it on a ballot.
Because, if you are able to vote and don’t, but still choose to indulge in the anger infecting us daily as a society–frankly, that’s hypocrisy. There’s nothing righteous about it and if we must be angry, let us be righteously angry.
And that brings me neatly to civic duty.
We live in a society. It is profoundly imperfect. But as long as we are empowered to do so, we owe it to each other and to those that are disenfranchised and oppressed to pay attention and vote. It is incumbent on us to vote our conscience, based on a rational weighing of issues and personalities. You don’t blast music at 3am in an apartment building with thin walls. It’s the same thing. At least it is to me. Voting is a matter of common decency.
And a quick bonus note: You know what’s great practice for voting? Reading. Read everything and learn as much as you can. Read stories, fictional and true, that expand your empathy and knowledge; that spark your curiosity. We in the YA world are extremely fortunate to have a veritable treasure trove of stories to choose from, good stories that also do what all literature is supposed to do, but doesn’t always, which is open the reader’s mind. Read all of that and then read the words our politicians and candidates say, not just in public speeches, but buried deep in their position papers or in the laws they’ve signed. Read and decide who has you convinced.
Read and then vote. And, for goodness sake, stop at red lights. We need every one of you.