The Privilege of Voting

This election cycle has struck many of us as particularly intense--from public interactions between the candidates and their party officials, to the mutual attacks by voters on each other that can be found all over social media.

Voter-behavior seems to also be topic that the media has been covering with more focus these days. And while much of it's noise, the stories that have resonated most with me have been those about people who aren't planning on voting. This is a cause I care a lot about, in a very deep way.

I try my best to make a distinction between the feelings of anger and anxiety that can easily come up during election season, and the act of self-affirmation that is voting itself. As a meditation teacher, I not only feel compelled to vote, but to emphasize the imperative to vote.

It may seem strange to relate spirituality and voting, especially in a country where religion becomes the source of policy-related conflict during political debates. But the faith that I think about in the context of voting is completely non-partisan. It's about recognizing voting as an immense form of freedom we're given; we have the choice to participate in the outcome of our lives, the lives of others, and the country as a whole. Each of our influences on any outcome may be incremental, but it exists, and is a critical component of change. In that way, each one of our choices to step up and take action has immense impact--on each other, and on our world's future.

Many years ago during an election cycle, an acquaintance said to me, "The differences between candidates tend to feel so marginal." I can't even quite remember who she was talking about. But regardless of specifics, I think it's critical to recognize even the smallest margins of difference in the choices we make--in an election, or any time. In this case, one candidate's views on education may not be a high-stakes issue for you, but they may greatly affect another person (likely millions of people). All of us, millions of us, are greatly affecting each other each day. By voting, we honor that connection.

I'm told that in Australia, all citizens are registered to vote and actually pay a fine if they don't vote. I like this model, though given the choice we have here, we actually have an invitation to pay attention to voting as a privilege, rather than a chore.

Voting is a privilege. It's how we can show commitment to ourselves, to each other, to this country and to this world.