The German comedian Henning Wehn once said, “Once one is an immigrant, and away from one’s home, one tends to become a bit more patriotic.” And boy, I can tell you this is true. Only after I moved to the United Kingdom did I learn to play the Star Spangled Banner on the piano. Yet at the same time, as an immigrant, or a resident foreign alien as I was officially known, I began to fully appreciate what it’s like to have no political rights. I didn’t have the right to vote, nor the right to petition my Member of either the British Parliament or the European Parliament. Though I was a member of British society, and resident of the City of London, in political terms I was without expression.
On the other hand here in the United States, in Missouri, I am a citizen. And as a citizen I know that I hold a big responsibility to my country, and to my state; the duty to play my part in our government at every election, to cast my ballot and offer my voice in favour of those candidates whom I see as most able to lead our society in public office. I learned from my experiences as a foreigner during the Brexit vote what it was like to be politically voiceless in a time of the utmost importance. I would not wish it on anyone, and dread the thought of the right to vote being further restricted here in our own country.
Yet that is what has happened, when through intrigue and misleading propaganda a majority of voters here in Missouri chose to approve a law which limits the right to vote through excessive Voter ID requirements. While the sentimental concerns of those crying wolf about voter fraud make a fine performance, they bear little credence from the realities of our electoral process. The individuals and factions who have cried foul on voter fraud are also the ones who will benefit the most from having a smaller electorate. They fear democracy because they know it will weaken their power, their status, despite the fact that it will help the rest of us out a great deal.
I long to live in a society where all people are respected, where equality is the watchword and happiness the means by which we measure the value of our lives. Since the election in November we have seen a rise nationwide in hate crime, a rise in racial tensions and religious violence. We have watched as the Democrats and Republicans have drifted ever further apart from each other and from the people at large. I hold a Master’s degree in Political Science, yet to be frank I hardly read the American political news anymore, it’s just too depressing. Each day as one bit of information or another comes through to me either via the papers that I read or over television or radio, I find myself evermore frustrated and wanting to act.
Here then is how we can surmount the latest obstacles placed in the way of our democratic process. We must act! We must take part in our government if it is to remain a democracy. A strong and stable democracy can only live, thrive, and survive if the people raise their voices and vote. Yet more than that we must protest, we must march, we must peacefully assemble and demand that our rights be respected, remind the politicians who are in it for their own interests that they too are citizens, just like us. They are responsible to us, to our needs, to our demands. This new Voter ID law is merely a roadblock, one which can be overcome in time through legislation, yet for now one which must be addressed and surmounted within the bounds of the law as it stands. We must find a way to turn this law, which is designed to curtail voting rights for some amongst us, into a mere bit of ink on paper, something so baseless in the realities of our state, and its laws that it cannot possibly be followed. Let’s play along by their rules, and bend them to our will. After all, a true democracy should follow the will of the people, not those in office.