Conversation with an Apathetic Citizen

A few months ago, I got into this heated argument with someone on Funnybook (my term of endearment for Facebook) about voter apathy. This guy, whom I’ll call “Randy”, (not his real name) happens to be on the friends list of a friend of mine. Randy made some remarks about how he felt that it was pointless to support and/or vote for any person running for political office or to participate in deciding any referendum or proposal the city or state puts on the ballot. Randy used terms like “career politician” and implied that people serving in political office were not “real”; in the sense of being in touch with the voters they were elected or appointed to serve. Randy went on and on. I had read enough and decided give him my views.

About the only good thing saved from this little debate with “Randy” is the fact that I chose to save my responses to his comments as fodder for some future blog post I’d planned on writing covering my views on voter apathy. As if I needed more material from that which I already had, Randy unwittingly gave me all I needed. He got me fired up. So, what you are about to read are my responses to his comments. As I was writing the previous blog post on Election Campaign Noise”, I considered the idea of working on a post covering voter apathy and had planned to use the material from the responses I’d made in that Funnybook debate. I’m just sorry I didn’t bother to copy and save Randy’s comments, too. Well, now is as good a time as any to share the response I made just as they were written all those months ago. Time doesn’t allow me to “fix it up” for you guys but I did change dude’s name to “Randy” out of privacy considerations. (Although the conversation was so long ago, I doubt that if Randy were a reader of this blog he’d remember anything I said to him.) As that FB conversation progressed, Randy resorted to eventually becoming an asshole with his comments back to me, getting mad because I failed to see his point of view. That’s just it: I saw his point of view a mile away. I dropped out of the conversation later because I draw the line at ignorance and disrespect.

Anyway, I think once you read through my responses, you’ll see where Randy was going and where I tried to convince him otherwise. Remember, this was an actual Funnybook conversation, thus the reason why you’ll see I’ve used of CAPS for emphasis on some words since FB doesn’t allow for italicizing or bold fonts. Thanks for your patience as you read through.
Let’s jump right on it, shall we?

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“Randy, if you feel that strongly bruh, why not run for public office yourself? Seriously! If you or anyone with your train of thought, has the time and the networking connections to raise the capital for such a campaign AND can garner the votes, then run for public office! Work at making the changes you want to see made which you and others assume are not being made. Why not become one of those “real people” you want to see in public political office? You certainly have the constitutional right to run for office just like everyone else! Don’t get me wrong; I’m NOT dissing you or your comment BUT comments like yours, I’ve seen and heard far too often for me to ignore! I can’t ignore it because, in my mind, such thinking, while having SOME truth applicable to SOME politicians, tends to keep some people from voting at all! Please understand that I have to do and say whatever I can to fight that kind of influence or perception! In any election period – but most especially in THIS one, WE CANNOT AFFORD TO FUCK AROUND with the idea of whether or not to vote for this person or that person, or for issue or that issue. You feel me? Consider a couple of things in mind should YOU decide to run for public office. First, if you get elected and RE-elected, YOU will – in effect, become that which YOU seem to abhor in your comment: a “CAREER POLITICIAN” – regardless whether or not you are (or might THINK you are) doing a good job. Second, there will always be someone out here, meaning, your constituents, who may have your CURRENT mindset, and who may call the now-elected YOU, Randy, a “career politician” and implying that YOU aren’t “real”, and that YOU are only in office “looking out for your own best interests” rather than those of your constituents. Just something to think about. What goes around often comes around, as we say in the ‘hood.”

[At this point, I remember “Randy” made some comment about how he “works all the time” and he “doesn’t have the time to run for political office”. He’s just “too busy”.]
“I hear you, Randy. I understand where you’re coming from. However, while I can agree with some of what you say, other parts of your comment (and your previous comments on this subject), I simply can’t bring myself to feel so negative or pessimistic with regard to our country and its political system or with the election/voting process. As a citizen of this country, or ANY country exercising the democratic process, I have to maintain SOME HOPE and some FAITH in our way of life AND in SOME of the people elected or appointed to political office – regardless of political party affiliation. My doing so, joins countless others in helping to ensure the needs of the American citizenry is met. Whenever there is disagreement, as is often the case in a democracy, we debate. Failing that, the idea or issue is thrown out to the people to decide. This is the REAL backbone of America democracy! I have lived in and visited many countries in my twenty year military service where such freedoms and abilities are either taken for granted or worse, not available or are strictly denied! I’ve seen what apathy can do to a society; I’ve studied how a once self-governing people allowed apathy to fester and evolved into a fascist, communist or dictatorial existence! You’ve seen what happened in places like Egypt, Syria, and Libya in just over the past year or so!”

[At this point, I remember Randy making some comment about how our votes don’t really count]
“You asked me if I believe if my vote really counts. Yes Randy, as naive as you may think I’m being, I DO believe my vote AND my influence as a voter counts! I believe this because, unlike many voters in America, I UNDERSTAND several things with regard to voting in America. I also understand MY responsibilities as a voter. First, I am appreciative of the right and privilege to even be able to vote in this country. I’m not naive on how certain things work here with regard to politics. In fact, I am more aware of the “game” than you might think! However, assuming you are familiar with American history, you’ll understand that as a Black man, I am EXTREMELY grateful and appreciative of the countless sacrifices many people, particularly BLACK PEOPLE, made to ensure that I – and my son, as American Black citizens, have the right to vote. I am NOT going to simply take their efforts or my right to vote, for granted, regardless of any crookedness or imperfections that might exist at any particular local, state or federal government level. Second, I understand, for the most part, how the voting and election processes work. I have an understanding of the election of delegates and of the Electoral College. That’s not to say I necessarily support or agree HOW they work, but I certainly understand it. I understand political pressure and how, if enough people – either with money or with NOTHING in their pockets, can – if pushed – have an effect on just about ANY elected or public service official. So long as that citizen has the PHYSICAL MEANS, FORTITUDE, and a WILL to place a call, send a text message or email, write a blog, make a PERSONAL appearance to that politician’s office, or raise a peaceful march, then he or she has the means of making a DIFFERENCE! I SINCERELY BELIEVE THIS! It’s been proven and written about in history! I’ve had family members participate in and I have lived through and seen politicians give in to public pressure during the 1960’s and 1970’s! I’ve participated in a few marches, protests, and letter writing campaigns myself! My belief in a better America is why I served in the military for twenty years—and would go back in again, if I were eligible! Randy, we are NOT a perfect society or nation but we are better than many of those whose streets I’ve walked overseas.”

[Randy now tells me that he has no desire to ever run for public office.]
” I know many of us cannot nor have any desire to run for public office. Public service on the political level is not for everybody. However, I feel that in our own way, we non-elected citizens, the would-be constituents, MUST try to place some faith in those people who are elected to represent us. If we lose faith in those persons then there are means to recall that person or the choice to not reelect them. It’s that simple and each is a PEACEFUL process, proving again how America is unique from many other countries in the world. And, for the record Randy, it doesn’t matter which political party, if any, either of us may be a member of or support; it doesn’t matter whom either of us supports for president, and it doesn’t matter how we may choose to vote on the five or six proposals on Michigan’s ballot this year. Outside of any election season, it also doesn’t matter what issues you and I happen to support or not support. What DOES matter is whether we, as American citizens, exercise our First Amendment right and make a statement to a cause by exercising our constitutional to petition any said cause and exercise our right to VOTE our conscience and do so peacefully and without harassment.

“Finally Randy, it simply sounds to me that you have the internal personal and spiritual fire to see POSITIVE things happen in America but at the same time, based on the negative things you’ve said here, it sounds like you are willing to just give in to hopelessness and…give up. That makes you apathetic, Randy; one who, regardless of much you SAY you care, really don’t prove it by doing something as simple as casting a vote. I hope that is not true about you but, the only way to prove otherwise is to participate in the democratic process: learn the issues, the candidates, and exercise your right to vote. As I implied in my previous post on this subject, it’s EXACTLY attitudes like yours that scares the shit out of me… especially when I imagine the possibility of HALF the American voting-age population, and possibly those now 18-year-old NEW voters, feeling the same way as you and being unwilling to exercise their right to vote. It makes for a sad commentary to America’s future.”

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That’s the end of the Funnybook conversation.
Readers: Election season notwithstanding, don’t let apathy be your guide while you live here in America. If you do, if you refuse to participate in the democratic process, anything you say in protest of how things are here in America will fall on THIS man’s deaf ears.

Keepin’ It…REAL!

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