If You Don't Know, Don't Vote

Reported by Jacks Whitehurst

I did not vote last year. It is okay if you did not either. 

I remember laughing out loud last year in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, not because I was dissatisfied with the results (honestly I think the whole episode up to this point is kind of funny), but because thousands of “peaceful” protesters took to the city streets and major highways of Portland and started rioting. 

To think that one man in Washington, D.C. could be the cause of over one hundred arrests, four injuries (one of which was a protester hit by a car), and tons of damage to businesses – it’s just plain crazy. 

I am not sure how to respond to those who ask me if I am political, because I honestly do not know. If anything, I chuckle my way through telling them that I am more concerned with trying to figure out where I stand in relation to the truth on issues I have never bothered to think about before.

Who cares what side I am bent over if I am doing it flippantly, trivially, or hysterically? It is not helping anyone. 

A lot of the fault is my own for being uninformed on current topics, but also probably the fault of my upbringing. 

George Fox University (GFU) is the first place I have been where I am actually exposed to these kinds of conversations. Some of them are casual and personal, others attacking and critical.

In one of my classes in fall semester of 2016, a guest speaker tentatively began talking about the election. I was  slightly intrigued until the last point, when the person addressed the whole class (which was largely freshman), saying, “Shame on you if you didn’t vote. Shame on you.”

I quickly walked away from that class, reeling from the thought that someone had just accusingly lumped me in with every other wayward, irresponsible, young American who does not see the importance in voting.

Since we live in an era of post-truth, where essentially facts and reasonable conclusions are secondary to appeals to emotion and opinion, staying positive is really difficult when things are looking dreadful. If people get news from only one media source (e.g., Facebook or Snapchat), chances are what they are hearing is not the full story.

But do not stop trusting media sources; instead, do some research. Try to get the same story from multiple sources, regardless if they are bipartisan or not.

I will be the first to tell you, I was nowhere near informed at the time that guest speaker visited, nor am I now. I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to news and understanding media. I am as green as they come in politics. 

But I am growing fed up with people saying I need to exercise my right to vote, as if somehow rights become more viable the more they are put to use, regardless of what I actually believe in.

In truth, I probably would have voted, had I felt like I had done an adequate amount of research to make an informed decision. But I did not care about staying informed then; that is where I went wrong. 

You are not obligated to vote. But since most of you reading this are probably under the age of 22, let me do you the favor of summing up my entire voting philosophy in one sentence: 

If you are not sufficiently informed, don’t cast your vote.

That sure sounds a lot better than “Shame on you.” 

The probable truth is that most young folks like us do not vote because we do not care, or because we are uninformed. But the time has come to stop feeling attacked for not participating, time to stop feeling lazy for not being informed, and time to start doing something about it, for our own sake.