Conto (de) Meu Voto

Eugene Henninger-Voss - Brazil


November 7, 2016

The worst thing that has happened to me since I arrived in Brazil happened in the US.

Somehow, the York County office never received my absentee ballot request, and I will not be able to vote.  I did what I was supposed to do, but I still can’t vote.

Which means whatever happens, I’m not responsible for the next four years.  That’s on you suckers.

For the most part, though, the current state of American politics is not your fault.   Due to the system of superdelegates, the democratic establishment did not have to choose Hillary.  The Republican leaders did not have to endorse Trump.  But they did.  And now we have the current state of American politics, elegantly manifested by my Brazilian co-workers cautiously asking me “Troomp ou Healoree?” before saying “Ele é maluco, né?.” (He is crazy, no?), and trying to communicate the idea of a racist across language barriers.  Usually by this point someone else in the room house laughed.  

They are never insulting, (thought this may have to do with me mixing insult and accurate observation in this case,) but I don’t think I would be out of line to say that for many Brazilians this election is a joke.  This election is absurd, and absurdity is generally humorous.  Especially absurdity so far removed.   While “Troomp” and “Healoree” are almost household names, and Trump now and then makes it into a news story, that seems to be close to the extent of most Brazilian’s entanglement with US politics.  They have their own problems with politics.

Living in Brazil has made me more appreciative of our political system then most Americans alive right now.  The difference between the US and Brazil is that in the US we have a hope that next time will be better. In the US only one race this election cycle that I know of is a circus.  Here in Brazil, people see corruption all the way down.  Worst case scenario we elect a crazy or a criminal (depending on your view) for four years to preside over a dysfunctional congress.  In Brazil the ex-president was found guilty of corruption, the president who replaced him was hounded out of office by corruption charges, only to be replaced by a person many consider to be a worse president from a party considered just as corrupt.   Even our worst case scenario far outshines Brazil’s reality.

We don’t have to settle for our worst case scenario, though.  There are plenty of great candidates running in national, state, and municipal elections, all we have to do is get out and vote for them. (By “we” I obviously don’t mean myself, but you, for reasons stated above.)  Yet still, people don’t.  I was struck when I asked a fellow fellow who she was going to vote for, and she replied that she was not voting.  I almost cried when I found out I couldn’t vote, and here she was willingly forfeiting the most essential right of citizenship.  I am afraid that the real, horrible effect of this election is that people are going to stop, or never begin, to vote.

“We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union…”

“… and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this Earth.”

But what happens when we, the people, cease to be a part of that government?  In 2014 only 36% of the population voted, the lowest in 68 years according to wiki.  It’s hard to imagine, but every representative in the House today was on average elected by barely a third of the population, in fact much less than one third considering 36% includes votes for and against.  For me this stands in particularly stark contrast to Brazil, where it is a person’s legal obligation to vote.

I feel deprived of my civic identity by my inability to participate in the democratic election of my country.  I will vote in every election, every two years, for the rest of my life, and still feel incomplete because I will never have been able to vote in them all.  Voting may not be a legal obligation but I feel it is my social obligation to my fellow countrymen to be an active, participating member in society, and that includes voting.  This election will always be, for me, the one that got away.  Don’t let it get away from you.

 

Eugene Henninger-Voss