After the Ballot is Cast

By this time next week, the American people will have elected a new President of the United States.

This statement likely does not come as a shock so long as you have heard of Saturday Night Live, checked Facebook every so often, or have interacted with another human being over the past few months. If you have undergone any of these experiences, you’re likely aware that people possess a wide variety of different feelings on the topic. You’ve encountered every opinion from staunch support to absolute disdain to total indifference towards the candidates. With such a range of outlooks, things naturally culminate, as they are now, into an occurrence that will both satisfy and disappoint large groups of people. Many have given thought towards the fallout this might bring (“My last conversation with Uncle Frank was pretty harsh. Should we still invite him to Thanksgiving?”) and what to do with the results (“Are we planning to move out of the country by Thanksgiving?”) Regardless of where you personally stand, I have found that this time of year highlights an interesting phenomenon.

The span of time leading up to an election brings a heightened awareness of social issues and activism, with ads telling you how to vote and celebrities reminding you to vote. While not previously in the spotlight, a strong emphasis suddenly arises regarding the idea of civic duty and social responsibility, represented by showing up on election day and exercising your right to vote. It almost seems as if the months around an election define the highest form of engaging with society as that of casting a ballot. Convinced of this many will partake in voting before they slowly disengage, whether satisfied with the elected candidate or not, and sit back letting the clock reset until another election brings about the next regularly scheduled urge to make a difference. And I believe that this occurrence should lead us to reevaluating what happens after the ballots are cast.

Now in no way am I saying voting is not important. By all means, the American people possess a great many privileges, among them is the ability to choose their representatives in the government. The significant value of exercising this right cannot be underscored. However, to view things like social engagement or civic duty exclusively as voting on election day is quite a mistake, something that a great many people end up doing around this time of year. While deciding to cast a ballot very tangibly represents a striking manifestation of the American’s power to affect change, it is not the end of this ability but merely the beginning.

The wise philosopher Michael Jackson once said, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change.” Any government, no matter how democratic, depends on the people realizing that they too have an obligation to contribute towards bettering the nation. Manifesting in a wide variety of ways too numerous to name, these opportunities present themselves every day. So often we miss these chances around this time of year. We are so focused on an election’s results, we forget that we can do so much for those around us in addition to voting. As outlined by the terms of the job, a president will set into motion what they deem best to change things for the better. This decision is based entirely on an understanding of the direct relationship between the masses and the state of this country. While many differing opinions and ideas exist on how to make that change happen, we cannot forget the importance of this relationship.

One week from now, you will either feel satisfied at the election’s results, disappointed by them, or simply disinterested. No matter your sentiments, as you evaluate the future of the nation, I encourage you to remember the immeasurable effect that your agency as an American individual presents. Showing up to vote takes a step towards making a difference, yet even more difficult at times can be walking out of that voting booth with a resolve to change your country, community, neighborhood, and self for the better. Regardless of what the next week might bring, I hope that each and every person who calls this nation home remembers the simple fact that change takes many forms, but ultimately, it must start with the individual.

And no matter what he might have said, please invite Uncle Frank to Thanksgiving. He shouldn’t have to eat all that turkey alone.

jflash@unews.com

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