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Old 10-17-2004, 10:16 AM   #1
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A will to vote, or a wish to die

This was in a local weekly newsmagazine as a guest editorial. Just yesterday, we had a municipal (mayor, council, & school board) election, and this was written specifically for this election, but I think it equally applies to the US election.

This is for all of you who think voting doesn't matter, or is unimportant.

"A Will to Vote, or a Wish to Die"
by Michael Cobden
The Coast Magazine (http://www.thecoast.ca)

"I'm going to tell you a story and hope you see something in it for you. It's from a time when I lived in South Africa, when apartheid was still government policy. I was in my early 20s. It was election day. I went to the polling station in a neighbourhood of Johannesburg called Orange Grove. Maybe I went out to vote or maybe I was working. I was a newspaper reporter. At the polling station, there was a line-up to vote, but also a crowd of people standing around watching. A fellow named Ernie Wentzel, a young lawyer (who would become one of the civil rights fighters who helped change South Africa), was standing at the line-up and shouting, 'Vote for Mary Walker! Vote for the Liberal Party! Vote for Mary Walker!'

The Liberal Party was a non-racial party. Blacks and whites could be members (though in South Africa at that time, and until Mandela was freed, only whites could vote). Alan Paton was the national chairman of the Liberal Party. It stood for social justice. For all. And everyone's right to vote. Most white people saw it as a threat, and the government would soon force it to disband. I can't remember how many people voted in that riding that day. Perhaps 10,000. Mary Walker got about 500 votes. That was more than a Liberal Party candidate would have gotten in most ridings.

I watched Ernie Wentzel shouting, his face showing both happiness and anger. Many people in the crowd and the line-up swore at him, cursed him, threatened to beat him up. You could see the hatred in their faces. But he kept shouting, 'Vote for Mary Walker!'

I admired his courage. He knew the value of voting against South Africa's terrible government, even casting one vote against it and against the opposition United Party, also ultra conservative, also whites-only. Everyone in the crowd at the Orange Grove polling station that night was white. A few blacks stood on the other side of the road, watching. I went over to talk to them and one man said something like, "It must be great to be able to vote." (I don't remember the exact words of our exchange, but I do remember the tone and substance.)
"Yes," I said, "and we should all be allowed to vote."
"Voting must make you feel good," he said.
"Well, it depends," I said. "If the person you vote for wins..."
"No," he said. "That's not what I mean. I mean, it must make you happy to be allowed to vote - and to do it. Strong. Free."
He asked if all white people voted. I said, no, not all, but most.
"What about the others?" he asked. "Why do they not vote?"
I said probably it was because they were lazy or just not interested or couldn't be bothered.

All he could do was shake his head. He couldn't understand anyone not taking the trouble to vote. But after a time he did say something (and this I'm sure I remember exactly). He said: "It cannot be lazy. It cannot be not interested. It can only be a wish to die."

You may think this story is a bit melodramatic when it comes to voting in the Halifax elections, that there's nothing at stake here like conquering apartheid. That's probably true. But the point is that each one of us has inherited a right that many people (like Ernie Wentzel) fought for and that some people died for. And we should use it every time we have the opportunity.

We should ask, who would lead our city the way we would like it led? Who would represent our neighbourhood best? Who would try to make our public schools better than they are? And then we should answer those questions by voting on Saturday."

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Old 10-17-2004, 11:13 AM   #2
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Great post, Dave. I hope every American voter here reads it and thinks about what a precious privilege we have. Yes, I think voting is a privilege. So many people in this world still can't do it.
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Old 10-17-2004, 12:21 PM   #3
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people just don't get how precious voting is. some people are like "well i don't vote because i don't like the system" or something like that. well, all the more reason to vote so you can change it! duh. unfortunately i miss voting in this election by 3 days but in a year will be the VA governors election, no doubt will i be voting then!
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Old 10-17-2004, 12:22 PM   #4
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Thanks for posting this! I was just thinking about apartheid today--listening to Rattle and Hum...

Ah, memories of the Eighties.
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Old 10-17-2004, 12:28 PM   #5
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That's really bad luck on your part U2democrat. Damn! Missing the election because of your birthday! I guess better late than never--you can vote in your first election for your governor next year. Yeah, some people don't know how precious our voting rights are, and they don't take advantage of having them. That's a damn shame.
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Old 10-17-2004, 01:23 PM   #6
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Thanks for posting this Dave. Great article.
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Old 10-25-2004, 06:34 PM   #7
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*bump*

I think this is important.

I'll keep bumping this till Nov. 2.
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Old 10-25-2004, 06:38 PM   #8
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good
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Old 10-25-2004, 09:01 PM   #9
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I'll second that
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Old 10-27-2004, 08:57 PM   #10
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*bump*
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Old 10-28-2004, 07:43 AM   #11
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Dave - check the faq on bumping
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Old 10-28-2004, 03:02 PM   #12
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Are you talking about this?

"What constitutes a post or thread worthy of being closed, deleted, or edited by the forum moderators?

Topics that are dragged on or 'bumped' up for no legitmate reason or to start a fight/get a rise out of people...etc."

There's a perfectly legitimate reason for me bumping this up.

Or is getting people out to vote not legitimate enough...?
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Old 10-28-2004, 03:16 PM   #13
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This is definitely bump-worthy.
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Old 10-28-2004, 04:09 PM   #14
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thanks -- didn't see this the first time. I think things may be different this year. Between 9/11 and the 2000 debacle, I think Americans have started to realize how important voting really is. I'm going to predict now that a larger percentage of eligible voters will vote this year than any other presidential election in the past 40 years.
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Old 10-30-2004, 01:37 PM   #15
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aaaaaaannnnnnddd....

up she goes!!
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