This is not an exhortation to stop voting. That is up to you. However, I am tired of the moldy old cliche that is constantly -- and smugly -- thrown at those who choose not to vote.
"If you didn't vote, then you have no right to complain about the government." So there. Guess I told him. This bit of bumper sticker wisdom has been repeated so often it has entered the collective psyche.
Let's see how that reasoning plays out.
If I don't own stock in the mail order company, I have no right to complain when they send me shoddy goods.
If I don't read their annual reports and buy their bonds, I have no right to be upset when the utility company pollutes my river.
Unless I attend the stockholders' meetings and vote my stock, I have no right to complain when my family is killed in a plane crash due to faulty maintenance.
Whether I vote or not, I am a paying customer of government. And a captive customer at that. The "services" are rendered regardless of whether I want them. If I choose not to pay for the services, armed agents of the government will come and take me away.
Whether I vote or not, I am impacted against my will by the idiocies of government. When they expose me to nerve gas or nuclear waste, they should not be allowed to say, "Well, you didn't vote, so it is OK for us to ruin your health."
And whether I vote or not, I am entitled to a reasonable level of common sense and care from the people who have arrogantly declared that they are qualified to run my life. When they wreck the economy or send us into a war as a political re-election ploy, they have no right to protest that, "Hey, half of you didn't vote, so shut up."
So get out and vote if that's your choice, if you feel that there is someone for whom you wish to vote. But whether you do or not, you are still entitled to speak up. When only half of the registered voters actually vote, it is difficult to construe the "victor" as empowered. Fifty-one percent of a half is not a mandate for anything.
R. H. Wheatley 30 August 1996