During the 2013 recall election, several women and I were walking through a neighborhood in Colorado Springs to encourage people to vote. We encountered a grandma and a mother with a baby daughter in a stroller. I asked them if they had voted. Both the grandma and the young mother shook their heads and said “We don’t vote.” They waved their hands as if to get rid of a fly. “But why?” I asked.  Having grown up in a Communist country, I didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t vote if they had the opportunity.  The young mother just shrugged her shoulders and explained, “I don’t like any politicians.”  

I responded, “I can understand that you don’t like them. But if you don’t vote, you basically allow bunch of guys you dislike to continue to make decisions you don’t like which will impact your and your baby’s lives.” She didn’t say anything. I handed her some literature about the recall and said, “I came from China and I was never given the opportunity to vote for any officials or representatives. It is such a privilege to be able to vote and to get your voice heard. No matter how you feel about the recall, please vote.”  She and her mother agreed to read the literature and think about it.

I couldn’t stop thinking about their words.  When I lived in China, we never had voting rights. All of the government officials were appointed by elites not voted in by the public.  We could never hold our leaders accountable. Government officials are only concerned with pleasing someone higher up. An official only loses his job if he displeases his boss. The people in China are not governed; they are ruled.  

My only voting experiences took place in school. Every semester, we “voted” for a class president. At our young age, we were already conditioned to the unspoken rule: we always chose the one who was the teacher’s favorite. Once in high school, several of us voted  for someone else because we were fed up by the special treatment the class president enjoyed.  He cheated on exams and our teacher turned her eyes away. After the 1st round of the “election,” our teacher didn’t let us leave the classroom. She made us to vote again, and again and again. We were only let go when the current class president was “unanimously” reelected. The lesson I learned then was that it was pointless to think independently and my voice and opinion didn’t matter. I also learned that not everyone was created equal in our society. Some men obviously have more rights than others. The rest of us just suffer and obey.

Thankfully, I do not live in a totalitarian society anymore. I am a US citizen. Four amendments to the US Constitution address voting rights. Each one of them represents the American peoples’ sweat, tears, and bloody struggles to attain a voice in government.

Voting is more than simply marking a name or a “Y/N” on the ballot. You are making a personal decision: Whether you want to be captain of your own fate or merely suffer and obey.  The choice will be yours in 2014.