As the election approaches I cannot help but feel the need to write a post about voting. A lot of this post will be personal opinion, and while I can tell you I tend to base my opinions in fact and I try my darnedest to only deliver true information to readers I urge you to use a fact checker for any information you are skeptical about in this post. It’s a good habit to develop whenever you see new information.
Getting (Reliable) Information
During election season we are bombarded with campaign ads. As with an advertisement for a car or brand of make-up, the propaganda shown in these ads is trying to sell you a candidate. The following may help you determine where the information you can trust will (and will not) come from.
- Unsolicited mail
- TV ads
- Unsolicited calls
- Government mailed information
- TV debates
- Project Vote Smart‘s research
- League of Women Voters material
- Information from organizations you respect
- Cross-checked research in local newspapers
Voting is one of the most important things you can do in your life. You are the only person who will fight for your beliefs, rights, opinions and thoughts (mumbles too). Whatever is important to you; stand up for it (even if you only fight – for your right – to PAAAAR-TY!) If you don’t hold your position, anyone who disagrees with you can come along and win by default.
It is now too late to register for the upcoming election (you must register at least 30 days prior). If you are registered great! Make sure you do your research and mail in your ballot or show up to the booth on election day. If you aren’t, all is not lost, there are still some things you can do to help improve your community.
Some Americans may fall into the mind trap that you only need to vote every four years. While the presidential elections are important, I believe that the elections that take place more locally are really MORE important. These elections determine how the schools in your district are run, whether to convert your favorite open space to a new homes development area, or where to build that new bike trail. These issues, seemingly small (especially compared to healthcare and tax reforms) are actually more likely to influence your life in a noticeable way.
Government was established so that individual citizens would have their individual beliefs, values and concerns addressed, but they wouldn’t have to be active in the process; there would be someone out there who’s job it is to focus on these issues. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find someone to represent every individual’s beliefs, values and concerns. Politicians have their own beliefs, values and concerns to deal with on top of those they are representing. Additionally, some politicians are not always truthful when they make promises to the citizens they represent. Therefore, it’s up to you to keep them honest.
Democracy depends on informed citizens. Be one by keeping up with the important issues that face America. When hit with an indescribable urge to watch Here comes Honey Boo Boo and The Jersey Shore, instead flip to one of these great news programs:
- The News Hour with Jim Lehrer (PBS, weekdays) – Unless Mitt Romney kills PBS (should he be elected) this show provides in depth analysis of current events.
- All Things Considered (National Public Radio, every afternoon) – A radio show, which gives a recap of the day’s news and analysis of pressing issues.
- BBC News (PBS, weekday afternoons and late evenings) – For an international perspective that US media often brushes off in favor of celebrity gossip.
- Washington Week with Gwen Ifill (PBS, Fridays after the News Hour) – Brings together liberal and conservative political and media commentators in a round table to discuss current issues.
- Meet the Press with Time Russert (NBC, Sunday Mornings) – A long tradition of asking politicians the tough but fair questions.
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central, weekdays) – While presented as “fake news” these comedy shows often present an incisive commentary on politics.
A List of the Top Issues America Faces Today
In my opinion the following subjects are the most pressing issues America is facing. Some of these topics create rifts in relationships due to disagreements and some bring people together. The important thing is to know where you stand as this country moves forward, so that you won’t be left behind.
ONE: The Economy
We’re in an awful mess when it comes to the economy. In my humble opinion the hole is so deep that no single person can fill it (I heard someone say once, that until we raise a generation that can live on what they earn, we will never be out of debt). Basically, the “debt” ceiling has been raised multiple times with no plan to repay what is owed.
The US incarcerates a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country in the world. Few dollars are put into reintegration and rehabilitation, therefore prisons are used as a place to lock up societal problems in hopes that they sort themselves out. A safer, more humane and more effective system of crime prevention and treatment programs would benefit our society more than the current system. To educate yourself and take action on this issue, contact:
The Center on Juevenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ)
THREE: Reproductive Health
Reproductive health is essential to the economic, political and social empowerment of women around the globe. Access to family planning methods, sexual health information and abortion services are scarce, and/or unavailable to the majority of women. Women deserve the right to healthy, planned pregnancy and quality sexual and prenatal health. To educate yourself and take action on this issue, contact:
National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL)
FOUR: Energy, the Environment and Climate Change
Human-caused climate change threatens our future, As the temperature of our atmosphere increases, changes in climate have a significant impact on agricultural yields, habitat integrity and vulnerable coastal populations. It is crucial that we work toward a healthier more sustainable society, through greener industry and energy use. To educate yourself and take action on this issue, contact:
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
In spite of historical advances made in providing equal opportunities for all individuals, our society still faces challenges of overwhelming inequality.We need to demand a more inclusive society where each and every person, regardless of race, religion or sex, has educational and occupational opportunities.
SIX: Medicare and Health Care
The parties are divided on how the social security and medicare systems can be made more financially sound. Reducing heath care costs remains one of the more divisive issues politically. The US is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have universal healthcare. Denial of treatment and fights with insurance companies are commonplace in America. Citizens should not have to make a choice between paying their healthcare or paying their rent. To educate yourself and take action on this issue, contact:
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP)
SEVEN: Gay and Lesbian Rights
I intended to include gay and lesbian rights under the inequality heading, however after some thought I determined that it deserves it’s own section. After all, minorities are not denied the right to marry or share benefits with loved ones. As long as rights are denied to any individual, couple or parent our society is not really free. To educate yourself and take action on this issue, contact:
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)
This nation is capable of a fantastic education system, we already have many fabulous teachers and schools, unfortunately something is happening causing the nation to fall behind other nations when it comes to education. We need to take a stand and remember that knowledge is power. To educate yourself and take action on this issue, contact:
The U.S. Department of Education (USDoE)
Alright, so you have all of these resources available to you that will give you (for the most part) reliable information and you have a list of the most pressing issues facing our nation. There is no excuse to keep yourself in the dark. Enjoy your new found knowledge vectors.