“Go out and vote! Let your voice be heard and use your rights!” Maybe you saw posts similar to this on Facebook during election season. This idea that voting necessarily means you are using your voice, also tends to imply that not voting means you are voiceless. Both of these are misconceptions. Someone can be involved in politics without voting, and one can be voiceless while voting.
This is not to encourage non-participation in politics, but rather to encourage it. It is through non participation, or apathy of the masses, that politicians are able to push through corrupt laws. We all have an obligation to participate because of the rights won for us by the founding fathers and leading figures in our nation’s history, and we should not willfully throw those rights away. That being said, voting is not the only means to expressing our voice and using our rights, it is just the easiest way.
In 1836 Abolitionist leader, Angelina Grimke, wrote an essay titled “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South” in which she lays down a guideline for how people can become both informed and involved in abolition of slavery. Despite the essay’s simplicity, it is an effective guide to becoming involved in politics even today on any number of issues. The basic process she laid out was to read, pray, speak/write, and act.
Read to learn about issues that our nation and world faces. It isn’t enough to know that Obama is a Democrat and Romney is a Republican and Ron Paul is neither. We need to understand what they are saying. We need to be aware of the limitations to the executive office, and at what point their claims would overstep their capacity to fulfill in office. We need to be aware of our government’s involvement in foreign affairs. Read up especially on issues that you feel particularly passionate about.
This seems like a daunting task for college students and people who have jobs, but it can be done. Gather a list of credible news websites, both liberal and conservative, to have a balanced perspective. Devote a half hour to an hour every day to reading about the political atmosphere. If we do this, we’d be more informed than most of the nation, and we’d be more able to make informed decisions in politics.
When we become informed, then we pray. Angelina Grimke was not implying that reading is more important than prayer, but that once we are informed, we know what to pray about. Be focused and detailed in your prayers, be intentional. We should pray that injustice would be dealt with swiftly. We should praise God when good things are happening. We should pray for wisdom on how best to deal with situations.
The final steps are intertwined. Grimke tells us to speak and write with the intention of spreading awareness and information. Mrs. Grimke was speaking and writing about the sins of slavery. We can speak on the subject of abortion, gay rights, war, poverty, etc. There is a great deal of injustice occurring throughout the world that we can discuss. Many people are completely ignorant of so many of the problems, so we have a near limitless opportunity to inform.
Although speaking and writing are acts, another that we can act is through demonstrations and protests. Throughout American history this has been an effective and widely used form of petitioning the government and making other citizens aware of our nation’s problems. Voting is also a form of an action, but voting on its own is not as affective without the other steps Grimke points out.
These are four steps that can make us aware of problems in our society and lead us to work for change. Writing for a small newspaper of a small college isn’t much, but it’s a place for me to start. In the internet age, we have so many ways to spread information through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blogs, etc. Of course having conversations with people, discussing issues with your friends and family, is also a start. As simple as these steps seems, they are effective. The history of American radical movements proves these methods effective.