As of this past summer, I am an American citizen. So far, I have learned that my life really isn’t so different. Permanent residents pay taxes, don’t have to stand in the immigration line at airports, need to sign up for selective service, and can whine as much as anyone. As a citizen, I can apply for federal government jobs that I wasn’t looking for, run for elected office that I’m not actively working towards, and vote for officials and policies that I don’t fully understand yet still have strong opinions about.
And vote I will, unless I forget to check my PO Box in time. For years now, I have expressed strong opinion on complicated matters and complained about policy all under the justification of not being allowed to vote. Although I technically could have followed the friendly banter to return to my country of birth, I considered it excuse enough. That allowed me to ignore all content in political ads and blow off any true demand for me to defend my beliefs. Even with election hubbub abound, only when Julie pointed out that I can now vote did it hit me: I can vote.
My trained reflex was to blow it off glibly with some detail intended to deflect the point, but digested for a few hours, it suddenly seemed like a good thing to do. Here existed one less thing to be a hypocrite about, and I determined that I would register to vote. Come time to execute, I could always not if I felt uninformed on the issues, but that was far away. Uncertain of how to vote, I remembered getting a facebook email notification from a friend inviting me to a voter registration drive in the middle of campus. It took less than 5 minutes that fit nicely into my bike path, and I have officially exercised my civic duty.
Which is not why I did it. At least, not out of any patriotic sense. I prefer to think of it as something more pragmatic, like a desire not to live in a dump. As I mentioned, I have strong opinions on issues I don’t understand, and I would like to see those issues put into policy. Prop 19? Well, why not? Prop 23? I think we can work towards dealing with climate change while creating more jobs. Meg Whitman? Don’t know that much, but she’s a Republican, so that’s a little unfortunate.
In 6th grade, everyone is my social studies class participated in a survey where we all “voted” in the presidential election. I voted Nader just to be strange since I didn’t actually understand the issues, and it wasn’t like my vote actually mattered for anything anyways. It’s a shame that 10 years later through the core of my education, I frankly don’t feel much different from then. What’s worse is no overwhelming desire to change that situation. I would like to keep up on current events, but since I no longer have extremely convenient access to paper copies of The New York Times, I don’t. And California politics are perhaps even a step below that on priorities. I kind of wish someone else with my ideologies could just tell me what I should write down on my ballot. But I guess that’s not much of a democracy, eh?