"All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote."
Henry David Thoreau
That being said, I didn't vote yesterday. I didn't ask for a mail-in ballot, neither did I lie to the many Obama supporter's standing on city street corners asking whether or not I was registered. I merely said, no, I'm not registered, I've thought about it a lot but thanks anyway. Now that being said, I'm extremely happy Obama was elected his speech last night was inspiring and I hope he acts true to those words.
But I'm not going to get into WHY I don't vote or what problems I have with our government, or how I thought about voting until I watched the second presidential debate and was sorely disappointed. What I want to talk about is Proposition 8 in California, and what voting really means. At least, what it means to me.
When you vote you're effectively signing two agreements. Firstly you agree that what you're voting on SHOULD be voted on. That means that the last word essentially lies with the government. In this case you're saying: "This is the manner we should be deciding whether or not a couple of the same-sex should be allowed to marry". The second agreement is that you will submit to the outcome, whatever it may be. You do not have to think it's morally correct, but you will adhere to it's legal authority.
California voted Yes on Prop 8. Following my logic, that means those who voted on it agree that it should be a matter for the government to endorse and ultimately decide. They should also believe that though, they may think it's actually morally acceptable, it is indeed unlawful for same-sex couples to marry. I'm not saying that Californians did the wrong thing by voting, they were simply operating within the system put forth before them, I will admit it was the quickest, most practical way to get things done, even if it wasn't 100%. I can't expect everyone to be idealists or for human understanding to change overnight. So we get things done the best way we know how. Even if that is the case, it doesn't mean we can throw out everything else that follows when operating within that system- meaning those two agreements I listed above.
Another quote: "The government which governs least, governs best."
My simple point of view concerning Prop 8. is that the questions of whether or not two people, two Americans in this case, should be allowed to marry should NEVER have been put up to a vote. It disgusts me that it was, and it saddens me that people were so fervent about getting people to vote one way or the other, while no one stood up and said "What the eff? Why are we even voting on this in the first place?" Our country does not give rights. We ask the question of the Bill of Rights: Did we always have the right to free speech, or was it 'granted' to us. We've always had it and we always will people. Speaking of the Bill of Rights making same-sex marriage illegal strictly denies our "unalienable" right to free-speech. Another reason it should never have been on the ballot. Sheesh.
Back to freedom and voting- We are in no way bound by duty, nor obligation to vote. Yes, we have the right to vote. Yes our ancestors (well some of them anyway) fought with their lives for these rights, however it does not follow that we are obligated to use them. Since when did the existence of certain rights trump our freedom to act on those rights? Rather than a right, it's an OPPORTUNITY. They died in order to give us the ability, the choice, to vote, it's our unquestionable right to choose whether or not to vote. Just as it's anyone's right to say "Boy, considering our history it sure would be nice if you voted." But obligation does not lie in within right. I am not obligated to speak my mind whenever I disagree, or am I obligated to carry firearms. But I could if I wanted to, because I have that freedom.
Once again, I'm glad Obama was elected, I believe he and I hold more ideals than McCain, however, the change I'm looking for won't come straight from him, or the white house, or the government. It will come from US. It will be seen when questions about civil liberties are not put on a piece of paper and debated over until we're all screaming at each other. It will be decided as naturally as taking a breath. But that's because I'm an idealist and I believe in a universal truth, a greater ethic called Humanity that one day we'll all realize we're already a part of.
I just hope that day of realization will come in my lifetime.
One day morals won't have to be turned into laws in order for people to believe in them. The idealist in me is screaming that the more we do that, the farther away that day is.