The title says it all.
Present, but not voting – It’s sitting on the sidelines of a sporting event in your hometown, collegiate alma mater or adopted home, and, at the very least, not getting off your feet.
Present, but not voting – It’s taking the time to show up to a city council meeting, and during the public comment period, finding nothing to speak about.
Democracy might be the “rule of the people,” but trends to be the rule of “some people”.
Present, but not voting – It’s assuming that because your neighbor/partner/spouse votes, you don’t have to.
Present, but not voting – it allows your vote to be usurped by others, who do so for their benefit, while you sit back and relegate your responsibility.
Democracy, at its core, is not a spectator sport.
There are several instances in all our lives, where you have a choice to engage or not: To address a wrong, or let it slide; Give your opinion officially, or stew upon it and only gripe privately to close friends; To solve a problem, or say “let George do it!”
But why is it only George’s responsibility?
YMCA’s Youth in Government program’s motto is: Democracy must be learned by each generation.
Youth in Government is a weekend-long workshop where high school students, regardless of grade level, are allowed to assume the responsibilities of their “real-life” counterparts to introduce legislation and debate bills on the Statehouse floor, argue and judge cases that are generated by attendees, in a mock Supreme Court, or serve in various Executive or Press rolls.
While there is local in-chapter training ahead of time, most lessons learned from these weekends is not only how government works, but how cooperation across ideology and position can be worked out for what is the most good, for the most people, for the longest period of time.
No wins. No losses. Just good. And it’s a good that is undertaken by not sitting on the sidelines.
Bringing it back to the real world, it all begins with taking the time to vote. Even with voting on a regular basis, there are ways that we’re present, but voting like we’re not.
Take the time to read. Take the time to listen. Do research. Don’t always accept the status quo. Don’t always accept one side of the narrative.
Get out of your comfort zone. Be the one to ask a question at a candidate forum or debate. Listen to their answers. Show up and be engaged at local council and board meetings.
Volunteer. Help others register to vote. Lift others and their voices up to be heard.
The great light of the “American Experiment” of democracy is not continued by those those who cheer it on from the sidelines, or critique it without taking a direct role of heading to the polls.
The Majority. the minority.
Everyone in between and beyond.
As Jaycees, we should stand up and not be counted as present. We should be counted as those who want to make a change in our communities. We should always be those who are counted amongst the helpers – Those who help others be heard, those who help to remove barriers for more to be heard, and those who take action to make sure that all voices are heard.
The flame of democracy, must be stoked by each generation.
And it’s a flame that must be tendered.
Your vote, is that tender.
Your actions, stoke that fire.
There’s a statewide primary election on August 4th. Get to work Jaycees.
James Dreher serves as the 2020 Michigander Editor as part of the JCI Michigan Technology Committee. He has held multiple local, state and national positions, including serving as the 2017 JCI USA Communications Chair.
Opinions and views published here are those of the author, and do not serve as an official position of JCI Michigan, its local organizations, or governing organizations.