08 March 2016

Our Citizen Duty to Vote

by Cameron Stell
Social Media Commentator

Educated Voting
One of my earliest memories is of my parents taking me into the voting booth with them. I watched as they placed an “X” by each choice they made. What was fascinating to me was that their ballots didn’t always match. They would study the positions of each candidate in the newspaper in the days leading up to the election. This exercise for every election instilled in me the importance of voting at an early age. My parents didn’t always agree on a candidate, but they never argued about politics.

I also learned that it is also important to educate myself on the candidates’ positions. I can remember voting in my early adulthood and coming across a slate of candidates in local elections for which I hadn’t done the research. I knew absolutely nothing about their beliefs. I decided then and there to skip the vote on those candidates. I didn’t think it fair of me to vote without having done the research. From that point forward, I have never gone unprepared into the voting booth.

When I was much younger, political discourse was exciting and one was often able to see things from his or her opponent’s point of view. Politicians were able to compromise and pass legislation for the greater good. I have nostalgia for the time when people could have differing opinions without getting angry or hurling personal insults.

Our right to vote is an integral part of our democracy and should never be neglected or taken for granted. We owe it to ourselves as well as to everyone else in our great country to cast an informed vote in every election. I truly believe we live in the greatest country in the world. We have to overcome the ultra-extreme partisan divide that is currently tearing our country apart and work together to fix the problems we have. Our future and our children’s future depend on it.


by Sunny Mera, 
Author All in Her Head
To Protect My Voice…
I vote to protect my voice, to protect my daughter's future, and to build a world where I want to be.  I haven't missed a primary election in years.  And I do my best to vote in every general election.  I know it is my duty to choose the best leader possible.  This year it isn't an easy choice. However, I will vote and recognize that it is my privilege to vote.  

After the birth of my daughter I was diagnosed with severe mental illness.  I was lucky to be identified as needing mental health care early by my healthcare providers. I was never criminalized for my mental health condition, something many people face in today's environment with more prisons than treatment programs.  

I believe we need more treatment and less prison time for people with mental illness. The time for shame and stigma of biologically based illnesses are over. Stigma and shame need to change and I participate in the process hoping that someday my efforts will make a difference in someone else's life.  

As a society it is the duty of citizens to pick people up and put them back on the ladder of life when people start to fall off.  As an able citizen in recovery from severe mental illness I appreciate my civic duty to vote.  I am part of the process. I vote to build a community where we want to live.


by Annalisa Parent
Author and Writing Coach 

Get It While the Gettin’s Good 
If you’ve ever followed the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems on twitter, which pokes tongue­-in­-cheek fun at how good people in the first world have it, you’ll understand what I’m about to say. In a country where we face such inconveniences as waiting a full five minutes for someone else to make our hamburger, or having to drive all the way across town to buy the cell phone we want, it can be easy to see voting as an inconvenience­­: the long lines, the standing, the research it takes to know who’s who... 

And yet, as the old saying goes, when you take things for granted, the things you are granted get taken. The rights we have were not given freely; they were hard­-won. Perhaps because many of us did not fight those battles personally, because time or distance separate us from those who did, we overlook the privilege and rights we have, thinking them irrevocable. 

Well, think again. Democracy disappears when the people who are its foundation cease to invest. A government of the people need, by definition, people to maintain it and support it. 

According to Al Jazeera­ America, only 42 percent of Americans voted in the 2014 midterm elections, the lowest level of voter turnout since 1978. 58% of Americans thought voting was unimportant, took their rights for granted, and let someone else make their decisions for them. 

Power is a delicate thing. It is easily seized and hard to hold onto. Every time a person decides not to vote, he or she relinquishes power to someone else. Is that person trustworthy? Does that person have interests in maintaining democracy, or in seizing power for him or herself­­--because every time you don’t vote, that becomes a real possibility. 

Democracy requires participation and investment. It’s not an inconvenience or a chore; it’s an honor and a privilege. Just ask anyone living under a totalitarian regime­­ what would they give for the burden of having to choose amongst a pool of candidates who best represents their values? 

Ask those who fight for our nation every day, or think back to the Civil War, when President Lincoln so famously honored those who had fought with the express purpose: 
That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 
Do not let this cause be in vain. Do your simple part of getting out of your chair, and dragging yourself to the polls. We cease to be a democracy when we cease to participate in the decisions that shape our lives. 


by Jennie Baron

Raise Your Voice
Like many Americans, when I was young I was taught that the constitutional right and responsibility to vote were almost sacred. Now we are living through an election cycle where the stakes are too high not to vote. Yet people are more turned off voting than ever. More people are giving up this civic duty and handing over their futures to others. 

Voters do not appreciate the privilege mostly because their vote often does not seem to matter. As a liberal-leaning voter in a red state, I entirely understand. I’m frustrated feeling that no elected official truly represents me.

Frustration with the system has led to people disenfranchising themselves by choosing not to vote. So many truly disenfranchised groups fought long and hard in this country for the right to vote; sometimes, I wonder if they fought in vain.

 Of course the system is flawed. No system created by human beings is perfect. But it’s what we have and no one has yet come up with a better idea. Think about the voters in countries who’ve recently gained this right we take for granted, their pride and happiness in voting. Even amid rumors and allegations of corruption in the voting procedure.

They finally had their voice.  Why don’t we, as Americans, raise our voices for the values we stand for? 

The right to vote is also one of our best methods of expression.  I want to be able to express my dissatisfaction with the politicians others elect, and I would be hypocritical if I didn’t participate in the process.

So, everyone, you may be cynical that your vote won’t count, but I urge you all to vote anyway, at every opportunity. Whichever candidate you choose. You’re choosing your — our nation’s — future.


by Tammy Boehm
Poet and Author

Shut up, or show up…
Unless one resides under an outcropping in the middle of Death Valley, it is painfully apparent that we the people are in the throes of yet another election year. Fraught as it may be with candidate posturing on all levels from Joan of Arc championing to consecutive bouts of urinary Olympics, we do ourselves a serious disservice if we choose to lose the remote and simply ignore the state of things until oh, Christmas time. Sure, there are those who fully engage, foaming at the bit for every moment of debate, of early polling numbers and whatever spin Fox deems adequate to garner twenty minutes of air time but for a lot of us politics on any level is comparable to getting one’s gums scraped sans lidocaine. For a few of us that pain is even more intense and a bit lower. 

Let’s face it. The incumbent, love him or hate him is on his way out and it’s anyone’s White House. Since the tax payin’, pitch fork weildin’ villagers, love to light a lantern and ferret out a monster, most of the candidates at this point are getting our attention by stacking the digested hay as high as it can go with an effigy of the opponent tacked to the pile. A bonfire gets our attention. 

Unfortunately, the only way to stop the political weanie roasts is for we the people to put down the pitchfork, click the off button on the remote and get out there and cast our vote. And it is to our detriment when we warm our hands over those bonfires, voting against the monster du jour rather than educating ourselves on the real issues and positions of each candidate. Especially in an election year where there seems to be no clear choice, at least to this American the only logical choice I can make is to educate myself on the issues rather than the personalities and cast my vote. Besides, if I do this and I don’t like the results say by Christmas, I can pick up my pitchfork again and start slinging that digested hay with the vindication that I didn’t vote for that idiot. 

As a chick with quick fingers and little filter, I could use this opportunity to join in and make a pitch for my personal favorite, with appropriate deferral of any negative positioning against those I deem less suited for POTUS for the next four to eight years. I’d be within my rights to taut my conservative Christian lifestyle as indicative of my candidate support. But I am also a bit of a maverick and I truly believe my quick fingers and my lack of filter would be better utilized if I simply chose the side of “Get out there and vote.” Stop letting the raucous and verbose minority define us as a nation. You and I are better than that. Show up, or shut up. That’s my mantra. Spoken in love and seasoned with salt. Peace.


by Chad Bittner Hurt

Be the new leaf…
This fall, I welcome you to be  a new leaf over turning. 

Countless proud people are rolling in their graves, hoping for an emboldened you. Our hearts are awakening to the possibility of a good living king not as a single person ruling everything but more over a philosophy manifesting in a democracy, a social democracy I dare say that still fosters competition and creativity but provides a baseline from which our hearts and minds can leap. 

Everyone deserves food, a home, and health. Only then will we fly into great wonder rather than continue to drop in this corporate oligarchy we've allowed to persist. To borrow words I read fleetingly while scrolling, this feels like this is the last season of America and the writers are just going nuts! I realize that this may be our rock bottom. In fact I pray it is. We all know how much lower we could go. So I say choose to wake up before too much blaring of the alarm clock, take note before we break! Put out faith and energy in infrastructure for future generations, invest in focusing on New local industry and energy revolutions.

Leaving out CEO leaders to lord over empty corrals. We can organize and build a quality future while they’re busy playing games. VOTE!


by D. Denise Dianaty
Poet, Artist, Author, and Blogger

Don’t Choose Apathy – Choose Hope
Choosing not to vote is an abrogation of our Citizen Duty to vote. But, more than that, refusing to vote is giving up… it’s abandoning hope. Everyone comes out loud and vociferous for the presidential elections, decrying the system. Then, when the election is over, all those agitators fade into the woodwork. 

If we want our votes to count, we have to vote every time and we have remain engaged even when there’s not a coming election. If you want to do something about the two party system – which everyone acknowledges is not working as it should – then you cannot sit back and wait for elections. Congress and White House administrations are operating a public arena, for all the world to follow, all the time, not just in an election year. Bring your election year activism to every day and be part of the change. 

Moreover, the history of both parties demonstrates how change can be created from within the parties. Whatever your party, the evolution of political parties in America is historical and undeniable fact. You CAN create change in the system, both by activism and by voting. Refusing to vote is nothing less than apathy.

Sitting on the outside, condemning the system that is THE ONLY SYSTEM WE HAVE is not creating change; only coming out for elections tells the politicians that they just have to wait out the election year to go back to business as usual. Refusing to vote tells politicians they don’t have to worry about your concerns because you won’t vote – if you don’t vote, you won’t exist to them. If we want change, we have to be part of the change all year, every year. We have to engage and keep engaging all the time. With citizenship comes responsibility. It is our Citizen Duty to VOTE every time there is a vote. 

Your vote is always an act of HOPE. As a citizen, choosing not to vote is the ultimate act of apathy, of abandoning hope. “Apathy is acquiescence is compliance is approval.” ~MomzillaNC

There is always a solution: it requires our activism and our active hope – and, always, our VOTE. “Hands and hearts and minds and voices committed to working for tolerance, peace and social justice everywhere, always.” ~MomzillaNC

Image provided by Annalisa Parent

04 March 2016

Bullying: A Missing Component

All our adult lives, we as parents, teachers, counselors, administrators… all of us adults have been trying to end bullying for our children. We remember what we witnessed or experienced as children ourselves. For at least forty years (from my own childhood being bullied to today, dealing with my own child’s experiences), grownups have been talking about and working to address bullying. Yet, it’s not going away. It doesn’t even seem to getting any better. If anything, the advent of social media seems to have made it so much worse. Why? Why haven’t any of our worthy, hard-fought efforts been working?

I think there’s a missing component in our adult efforts to deal with bullying. We talk to kids. We talk about kids. We want them to report bullying. We want them to talk to us about bullying. As parents, we’d do anything to save our own kids from the bullying we experienced or witnessed growing up. But, our kids won’t talk to us, just like we didn’t talk to our parents. Often, the kids themselves don’t even realize they may be the bullies. Kids don’t want to report bullying. Part of the bullying culture is the intimidation that keeps victims and witnesses silent.

The kids are the missing component. 

We need to get the kids talking to each other. I’ve come to believe we need to create a safe-space, student-led outreach; we need to add this missing component to all our other worthy efforts. We need to give our kids something like a social club in every school, led by the students, but moderated by the school counselor. It should be a place where the kids do not name names… a place where they can talk about the bullying they witness as well as the bullying they experience — without the adult push to report it. We have to get the kids thinking about their own place in the social environment that fosters bullying and how they can and must be the engines of change — but we have to let them discover that path for themselves. We have to empower our kids to be the ones to challenge the social injustices of the bullying culture in their own corner of the world.