Tue Nov 6, 2012, 07:39 PM
Grown2Hate (1,376 posts)
An Essay from my Vet. Roommate (and friend) on His Viewpoint of Voting Importance
This man is one of my closest friends, a great roommate, and an inspiration for anyone who wants to do right by their country. Today he was able to vote for the first time, after being overseas serving in Iraq. He wrote this today for his FB page. Words can't begin to express what an awesome story this is. GET OUT THERE AND VOTE!
• I don't like talking about my Army experiences that much (I hate being branded as that person, as I am more than my experiences, at least to me). And although I rant, I decided to open up about something very important to me that's relevant to today. I have something for everyone in this article. For those who are apathetic, clarity. For those who don't understand the importance of voting, perspective. For those who don't understand why I care so much about our every facet of government, a brief history.
I once was in a city called Ramadi, in Iraq. A dusty mid size city along the Euphrates river. This city was mostly poor, and the citizens threatened with their lives should they vote. This was in the days of the Mujahideen terror squadrons in 2004, who were very organized, and would place death threats on families for the smallest of reasons, disappearing into the night without a trace. Acting the "American way" was one of the bigger reasons for execution, or for disappearing and not being seen or heard from again. Most Iraqi citizens didn't understand the power of having a say in their elected officials, as they never had a choice before to even have elected officials. Some interpreters even complained to us they didn't want to vote, or didn't understand the importance of it. This thought has not slipped my mind to this day, but more on that later.
For a week me and the rest of my brothers from the 503rd Infantry Regiment, built a huge perimeter out side of an elementary school, pounding pickets into the ground, constructing a protected concertina wire barrier in the sun 6 feet high, and under a quarter mile long. We built one of Iraq's first polling sites in its history that day. We had the US coalition forces, the Iraqi police, and the Iraqi army there to ensure fair voting, and safety of voters. We all sweat out, some sleeping on the concrete roof tops with our gear and our weapons making strange bedfellows in the elements. And we all stood like sniper fodder with 80 pounds on our backs all day and night looking down on the street below, to provide a blanket of safety to those who vote. This was in the days of martial law, where we stripped the rights of people, for our safety. As someone that was a part of that force, of stripping people's rights, I can say it is easy to control people. It is easy to scare them. It is easy to take their culture, their hopes, their spirit, their livelihoods, and then finally their lives, without caring, through an escalation of carelessness. Some of us didn't sleep at all for that week, just to give that freedom to Iraqi's, should they want it. And not for one minute did I really regret that, though it took me long after, to fully appreciate and understand what voting meant. The city held around 500,000 people. We expected 50,000- 100,000 people plus in that week for our area. By the time we closed voting, we got under 100 people. It was trumped as a loss. To this day I cannot figure out if it was good or bad, but the people were protected, and they had the freedom to vote. Though I don't believe in the methods of taking the society and culture from someone, or making them assimilate to another standard not their own, I as well am torn between understanding if what we did was justifiable, or if it was a poor choice.
If you are thinking of not voting, this one's for you. Today, when you think about not voting, think about the fact that you don't need an army to support you. You don't need to worry about someone kicking your door in to kill you for it. You don't need to worry about voting in an area that looks like a prison with razor wire, or that someone from some distant land has to protect you to do so. You don't need to worry about those who would gladly take your rights from you at the end of a weapon. There is no one who will disappear tonight for their beliefs, in the cover of darkness, never to be heard from again. There is nothing standing between you and your ballot, but your apathy or your non belief in this government, or your voice in it. Voting is a human right here, as it should be in any place where culture accepts it.
Though I don't believe in what we did there (changing a country's way of life/ culture because WE deem it necessary), I learned the importance of democracy that we have in this country. In other places in the world right now, you could be shot dead where you stand, your family taken, or tortured, or intimidated, just for putting purple ink on your finger and voting by fingerprint. That was their society that day, death to those who were given the freedom of expression. Our society was set up for the power of the people to be heard from day one. That said, it is very easy for us to take that for granted. And it is just as easy to turn a blind eye when votes are suppressed. To take for granted that there is not someone looking over your shoulder when you vote. To take for granted that today across the country there are voter suppression tactics, that though they have been put in place for months, can be carried out efficiently. This isn't some conspiracy theory, it is documented in a handful of key swing states.
•Florida- had the voter purge started by Governor Rick Scott. He said there were over 182,000 people who were illegally trying to vote. After three lawsuits, telling U.S. citizens they had no right to vote, and intimidating people to submit citizens who have specific documentation, but not the "right" documentation, his voter purge was brought down temporarily, by his state's Supreme Court numerous times, but the damage had been done to democracy. Not by gun, not by threat, but by the blocking of rights on a state basis, and people's beliefs that there is no hope for them to actually vote on time. After scaring people into not voting for over a month, and expecting people who were elderly, and minorities to not vote, it was found that of the 182,000 people (who were mostly of one party) affected, only 198 were potentially ineligible. The word ineligible not to be confused with undocumented, or "Illegal" as some politically incorrect people would say. Ineligible meaning that their paperwork was under review. 58 percent were Hispanic minorities to be purged on his rolls, in a 15 percent Hispanic minority state. These are the days where Governors can change rules to essentially gerrymander on their own terms, affecting a minority vote. Regardless of party, this is disturbing to me. It is hard to believe that when there is a hurricane in New Jersey and New York, those states do everything they can to ensure people can vote on time, and easily, but in Florida, voting must be a challenge, and impeded if you aren't a certain type of person.
•Pennsylvania- had voter ID laws that targeted minorities by confusing them about if they had to bring their identification to the polls. This stemmed from Pennsylvania being "worried" about voter fraud which happened 600 times in all of the United States, out of the last 600 million votes cast since 2000. With a .00004 % probability of voter fraud, of course it would be easier for the state to change provisions and demand different identifications a month before Election Day, causing a back log of people trying to get the new credentials from the state, thus cutting the ability of people to vote, then to admit it fabricated an issue of nothing, stripping citizens of their rights to vote. When your nearest ability to get credentials is 60 miles away, and you have to pay 10 dollars for new paperwork, those who are poor, or are on food stamps, or are less fortunate monetarily, were greatly affected. Namely the poor, minorities, and the elderly. To those of you who are lovers of the constitution, this is what we call a poll tax. It is against the law, specifically the 24th Amendment. To those of you who think this is a minority conspiracy, the woman who sued the state over her rights being violated under the 24th Amendment, was a little elderly caucasian woman named Viviette Applewhite, bless her heart. Pennsylvania lost this case, but the state and Super PAC's have been placing billboards around the state scaring people with prison or huge fines should they happen to actually vote legally, without the "right" identification. Pennsylvania was right next to Sandy, and they are still struggling with the effects of voter suppression, yet New Jersey and New York have been given all the help they need to help people vote. This should be a right, not something that states get proactive about only after a hurricane.
•Ohio- Jon Husted (R) Ohio Secretary of State (on record) has said early voting is "Un-American."
He is in the eleventh hour changing the rules of voting in his state as of yesterday. The new provisions are vague, and state that those who fill out incomplete forms (which is deemed at the poll workers discretion), will have their votes discounted from actual votes, to provisional votes. As of right now, the state of Ohio is in litigation for its improper use of voting machines as well. This is the democracy we fought long and hard for, and in my opinion is being tarnished, by last minute laws. I find it a travesty that we send Americans to die in wars to help poor people in third world countries vote, but here in the states, we use every excuse to prohibit others from voting at a state level.
This is where the election really is. For those who have voted already I commend you. I commend you for taking initiative. Just remember that those who are less fortunate than you have more hurdles to generally find a voice to vote. A vote should never be paid for. It should be earned when you are a citizen, and that is all. There should be no fear that the state makes you get last minute paperwork, though it votes down measures of providing its self resources to help the people get said documentation it desires. And that if you happen to vote, without required paperwork, you will go to jail, and or be fined. It is a sad day when the same people who want to cut funding for state and federal programs, are the ones who are saying you should be able to get that paperwork easily from the state. This is why I believe in federal powers over state ones in this regard. We have a patchwork of sometimes inadequate and differing laws. Some of these laws have changed in certain states 24 hours before the election, and could be fought out through litigation for at least a month. This has happened twice since 2000. I don't find it a far stretch to see the same thing tonight.
While in Ramadi we worked for a week, to give Iraqi's a vote, but I never voted that election for our American president, Because it was nearly impossible for us to with deadlines. Trust me when I say, overseas ballots are a pain in the butt, especially when you are in a war zone. And in 2008 I was in Iraq again. I didn't make that vote either. Today is actually the first day I ever voted. And after everything I have fought for, and every step I have taken as a citizen, I refuse to believe my voice is muted, or not worth anything. Your voice counts, because we fought for it, and don't let anyone ever tell you differently.
We fought in Iraq to give the right to the people, and when I hear people say "I don't want to vote," or "this system is flawed," or "my vote won't count anyway," I support that grudgingly, but I still support your right to exercise those freedoms.
•If you don't want to vote, don't. But I remind you that the apathy you carry, is what fosters the same fears you will complain about, that most likely will come to pass. You will be that person whom upon hearing the country's direction, carries the cycle of believing your voice isn't heard, and then complaining about its direction, while you didn't stand up to be counted in the first place.
•If you believe the system is flawed, of course it is. It's never going to be perfect, because someone will always be disappointed. But the fact of the matter is, that we should never stop striving to perfect our more perfect union. This doesn't mean blind voter purges that strip people of their rights, because your side might lose. This means we as a country should come to a peaceful resolve. A peaceful resolve is not poll taxing the people, or fearing them into believing their rights are wrong. A peaceful resolve means not obstructing progress of our country.
If you believe your vote won't count, remember Florida decided the 2000 election by around 700 votes. Your vote counts.
There on the rooftops, in the middle of the Iraqi winter, we packed up. Concertina razor wire downstairs being collected by the Army Corps of Engineers. Our blood shot eyes and tired bodies longing for a cot. Not knowing the impact of our mission, or if it had meaning. At least 100 brave souls sacrificing their lives in the name of democracy, to vote for the first time. And many more of us U.S. soldiers, Policemen, Coalition Forces, and Iraqi Army Soldiers, sacrificing our lives for securing them that right. These Iraqi men and women who would rather die than not have that freedom. They would put their entire existence behind their new found rights. Some old, some young, but all in the pursuit of perceived happiness. And to this day I don't know who lived or died. Or who was taken. I would like to assume all those who were threatened found peaceful lives, and made it home. The men to their wives and children, the wives to their husbands and children, hopefully all of them still alive today. I know one thing for sure, the choices they made that day, no matter if they are alive or dead, still carry on today. Please make sure yours do too.
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Replies to this discussion thread
An Essay from my Vet. Roommate (and friend) on His Viewpoint of Voting Importance (Original post)
Response to Suich (Reply #2)
Fri Nov 9, 2012, 12:53 AM
Grown2Hate (1,376 posts)
3. Thank you, sir. All credit to my roomie. When President Obama was thanking "those that may
have voted for the first time", we stood up, high fived and hugged again. It was his first opportunity. You'd think they'd make it possible for our soldiers overseas to vote, but he was literally in combat in 2008. We may be in AZ, but he was SO thrilled to vote. We took a picture of him dropping his early ballot off on Election Day. And hell, we can't WAIT for our vote to actually be counted (600,000 or so early/provisional votes still outstanding... wouldn't that be GREAT if we flipped it to Carmona?!).