As voters, we went out and exercised our democratic duty to influence our nation, state, and community to nudge the world in a more positive direction. Personally, I take great pride in being able to vote, but is that where democracy ends?
I say no. Democracy is not limited to the half hour every few years that it takes to vote. We are not powerless when our vote is overrun by citizens with differing opinions. Our human right to have a say in society extends far beyond the 2ft by 2ft voting booth. Our freedom to choose is present in every decision we make. In fact, I might say it's irresponsible to vote for representatives and then have them do all the work for us. Of course we can give them something to represent by writing letters, signing petitions, and marching in demonstrations, but we also have direct control over a lot of what's around us.
There are opportunities all around us in West Michigan to fill the gaps that government leaves. Where food assistance programs leave children hungry, there is Kid's Food Basket that needs your help organizing and collecting food. If you're outraged by air pollution, the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition needs members to help make 100 miles of bike lanes by 2015. And if, like I am, you're afraid that our students will be left underfunded, our teachers uncared for, and our schools uncertain, volunteer in the classroom. Take a student under your wing as a mentor, or participate as a Big Brother Big Sister or with the United Way.
Ok. Although fun and rewarding, those could take up a lot of your time. There are other ways to tackle issues with decisions we already make every day. Are you afraid of eating Genetically Modified Organisms? Check out a farmer's market for food rather than voting for industrial food products. At the end of the day, do you unwind by watching big network reality shows, or do you get re-inspired by exploring the programming on your local PBS station?
Our voice isn't confined to a few opportunities to vote. Our freedom affords us incredible power to take control of the world around us. It might not necessarily be easy, but isn't feeling powerless worse?
What are your thoughts? Exercise your voice below!