When Participation is Remembrance
With the hostility and political meanness of our times, it’s easy to become discouraged about how we maintain democracy in our United States. I have too often wondered, “Does my vote really count?” Is the decision already made if I’m voting in an area that always voting against the ways I do? Have the wealthy and powerful already “beat the system” so they keep their power and win every time?
The unfairness is glaring. When we see absurdly shaped gerrymandering maps in districts created to defeat the will of the people or voter suppression tactics that hinder ordinary people from casting their vote, it may be tempting to want to give up or sit things out on election day and avoid all the complications.
But, I tell you this: I vote in remembrance. I vote because the voices of my ancestors who were promised democracy never had their chance to be a part of it. The system purposefully did not include them. It still does not. Today the United States citizens of Puerto Rico are barred from voting in national Presidential elections though they are directly affected by the results. As a Puerto Rican-born person living on the US mainland, I am permitted to vote, so I vote in their stead and for their benefit. But, I ask you. Is this democracy? When all the voices of a nation aren’t given a count, does this make us a better or stronger democracy? Of course not. I vote to remember them because they still do not have a role in the process. I vote to remember that we are not there yet. The road to justice feels long. My people are still waiting.
We must remember that our witness is a living memory. By our participation and concern in civic life, we honor through remembrance the sacrifice of those who fought and sometimes died for our human rights and our right to vote. They had moral courage, and it is with moral seriousness that we continue. For this, casting a ballot is giving our sacred vote. It fits in a particular category of duty and devotion, to our country and democracy—sure, but it goes further. It esteems our forbearers. We must not betray the legacy they passed to us at such a personal high cost. We vote because they could not or could not and wanted better for us.
If you feel discouraged, may you find the strength to be reanimated toward action? If you feel numb, may you feel enlivened to participate in our democratic process? If you feel worn down, may you continue to persist as we pursue freedom, justice, and equality for everyone in the United States? Please, cast your sacred vote.
By Lisa Colón DeLay