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September 27, 2004

27/9/4 Segunda

Hey Folks,

My mom just sent me an a jarring email being circulated as a reminder of how lucky we are as Americans to have the right to vote.  Below is an excerpt describing the “Night of Terror” that occurred on November 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach the suffragists imprisoned there a lesson because they picketed the White House for the right to vote during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency:

“They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold.  Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.”

The woman who wrote the email, who now works for voter registration campaigns, described how many Americans feel about voting:

“Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.”

The line reminded me of a conversation I had with Sr. Santos a few weeks ago about voting in the US versus voting in Brazil, where it is mandatory.  Sr. Santos described voting as an obligation, but in the sense that it is every citizen’s duty to participate in their democracy if they hope to keep it a democracy.  That is, a democracy is not just about freedom of choice–it is also about the RESPONSIBILITY of each citizen to take part in the decision-making process in order to ensure that their society really is a democracy (or democratic republic, as in our case).  When people don’t participate, the democracy begins to crumble and the desires of those who do participate (a.k.a. corporate lobbyists, narrow-minded interest groups) begin to dominate the political and economic landscape, which has ramifications on the social and cultural landscape.

The moral of the story?  VOTE!!!  But first pay attention to what all of the candidates in EVERY election (local as well as national) say about the issues and to what their histories say about them as individuals–then vote with your heart and your head for the candidate you truly feel will fight for the best interest of our country and the world.  And once you’ve voted, keep tabs on what your representatives are doing once they’re in office.  Write letters and make phone calls–make some noise!!–when they’re not taking the actions you think they should be taking.  If you don’t, the rug of democracy will slip right out from under your (our) feet.


From → Brazil, Uncategorized

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