ARTICLE: To vote, or not to vote?

To vote, or not to vote? (By Matin Salaam Bari)

Before you people bite my head off after reading the following, remember that I represent only a tiny fraction of the population. Furthermore, I would never hope that my personal views influence the people who are blessed with receiving them. In other words, just take it as “food for thought”!

Why I Should Vote:
I’m in my mid-twenties and have never voted. Yeah, I admit it. No shame in my game. In fact, this is the first election where voting has even become an option. Election day, to me, has always meant that I could get extra wet the night before because I knew I could show up late to wherever I needed to be the next morning and use my ballot as the excuse. I never spoke out against voting, though. It just “wasn’t my thing,” as I used to always claim. “My vote doesn’t count”!

Actually, when people got after me about voting, there were times when I simply lied about it. “Yeah, I vote. Democratic, in fact,” is what I would say. When in reality, the democratic process hadn’t even registered to me yet. I often found myself engaging in light banter about the Electoral College, the swing states, and I am usually even able to hold my own when the chatter wanders into party conventions and the effect of certain candidates’ speeches. Go figure? You can call fraudulent if you like. I don’t mind. I guess I’m not too unlike that successful, yet illiterate, athlete. I talked a hell of a game – even played one – but when it came down to what truly matters in life, I didn’t stand for anything. I never got (what appears now to have been) my lazy black ass out of bed.

Well, the times have changed. I’m a grown ass man with grown ass problems. Each issue that these candidates debate affects me directly. In 1999, when Bush and Gore each revealed his stance on education, foreign policy, military spending, the budget, and health care, I was fresh out of school, and not too worried about either of these. I just knew being the dynamic dude that I was; none of this pertained to me. I hadn’t planned on getting sick, so why the fuck did I need health care? I used condoms. I just spent a small fortune on education so I’m finished with that. Foreign policy? Man, the only place I’m trying to go is Jamaica, for a week or so, so I’m not concerned about foreign policy either. I was so ignorant. Life itself expedited my growth, however. Not only did I have to teach my kindergartener how to read this past school (yeah because her teacher doesn’t really care) but I also had to pay nearly a million dollars a month for before and aftercare. Not only can I not afford health insurance when I freelance write for income, but I don’t feel safe visiting one of my best friends from college in the United Arab Emirates – an ally, nonetheless. Not only have 75% of the males in my family been incarcerated, but 88% percent of the children in my generation of my family grew up with no father figure present. Maybe you see the connection between these social situations and the democratic process. Maybe you don’t. My point, though, is that each of these situations has a history on Election Day. Meaning those who choose neither to vote for or against policy involving these particular situations and situations similar to these have absolutely no right to complain. NOT TO MENTION THE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE, BOTH WHITE AND BLACK, WHO DIED JUST SO LAZY, SPOILED PEOPLE SUCH AS MYSELF EVEN HAVE THE CHOICE!!

Why I Should NOT Vote:
Hey! I’m certainly not the Devil, but I often serve as what many people perceive as his advocate. In regard to voting, my answer is simple. I shouldn’t vote because my vote doesn’t mean shit! I’ll explain to you why. So peep game, and before you get your britches in a bunch or stop reading altogether, you must keep an open mind. In my opinion, we live in a time of major crisis – especially in the black community – and we must look at progressive solutions such as, but not limited to, mass voting. However, we MUST realize that voting is only a fraction of what we as a community must do to make it safe for our children to learn, to provide stable work for our fathers so that they’re dignity remains in tact, to cultivate the earth around us in a more efficient manner, and to just live in harmony! So I propose the following checklist that all black registered voters must satisfy in some way BEFORE being considered a registered voter:

– Join your local civic association. Whether it be city council, a neighborhood association, or if it’s just you and the people on your block that meet once a month, communication is key! Election Day is not limited to the Presidential election. Many of the aforementioned social issues may be resolved simply by a group of responsible adults putting their heads together.

– Join your child’s PTA and / or spend 1 hour a night to read or do homework with a child. Shit, even if you don’t have kids you should join a PTA or volunteer to educate a child in some way. I know you have a niece or nephew, or Godchild that you love and feel obligated to. I also know that while Chuckie Cheese’s is a nice way to spend time with the children in our lives, the library is ALWAYS better.

– Volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home. I know we are busy, but when we are ill we expect the world to stop spinning and heal us, so why should we not contribute to this? We are the world, ya know!

– STD Tests – ’nuff said!

Well? What do you think? It sounds like a lot right? In between working, school, shopping, clubbing, sleeping, sexing and playing, I’m sure you can squeeze in a little world saving and difference making. If not, your little vote REALLY doesn’t mean shit. I truly believe this prerequisite to voter registration is a great idea. Sure, it’ll only grace these pages for a week or so and then it’ll eventually disappear. Just remember that these are the things that I’ve done instead of voting, in the past, and will continue to do these as I walk in to the booth for the first time this November.

Then do some more!


P.S. This is my obligatory public service announcement for the year. Next time : it’s back to the gully!

Matin Jones
QA Project Coordinator
STARS SM/I Project
1120 Vermont Avenue, NW Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005
202.261.9359 office
202.413.5113 mobile
202.261.9241 fax

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