Voters line up at a polling place on Election Day. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
This season, a lot of individuals will be speaking to us about the power of the vote. From a political aspect, they will convince us that voting is important because presidential elections matter, and government officials need to be chosen in order to address the large number of issues facing our country.
There will be rallies, voter registrations at every event, and ‘get out the vote’ narratives throughout your communities. But one of the things they won’t mention, and perhaps it is the most important piece, is that your relationship with freedom should be assessed before you can even cast a vote in the first place.
As an African American, no clearer messaging existed for me than the importance of voting. I owe it to my ancestors. If I do not vote, I am dismissing their struggles, their sacrifices, their hopes and dreams for us. The pressure to vote is nerve wracking.
It doesn’t help that the pressures of society make you believe that voting one way or another is a direct effect of what type of woman or man you are.
Your humanity, character, and any plans of being a decent human being all come down to that single check next a person’s name that you have not even met. It is enough to make you feel like the pressure of voting simply is not worth it, especially since your single vote provides no peace in sight as you depend on others to ‘do the right thing’ in their assessment of themselves.
For what it is worth, I am an active voter. I voted my first time during a time period where humanity itself was at stake, at least that is how it was publicized in news outlets.
But I wonder why others do not stop to think of the implications that placing so much value on voting has on a person’s mental health. For those of us with anxiety, planet Earth provides millions of moments where we second guess, fear, and grow restless.
Voting, then, should feel more affirming than unstable, and provide us with more confidence than angst. The messaging behind voting has to change in order to allow us to not only find the value of value of voting, but in meeting it with some type of reaffirming behavior towards how our lives will be positively impacted as a result.
I don’t want to feel like a villain for how I think about healthcare, nor do I want to appear like a passive, compliant, pushover for wanting to allow others to have freedoms.
Voting should not feel like a death sentence. Politics do tell us a lot about who people are, and their value systems are often linked to those votes.
But when it comes to humanity, there are so many different nuisances that exist for our thought processes to arrive at any conclusion, that one vote can’t do the job of telling the story of who I am in my totality. Simply put, I am not my hair, and I am oftentimes not my vote.
I stand behind a lot of values and situations that would align my vote with one person over another, but at times, neither one deserves my vote. African Americans oftentimes don’t have a viable candidate. How do we pay our ancestors back for their sacrifice then?
Is becoming a sellout over picking the lesser of two evils how we say ‘Thank You’ to James Baldwin, to Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X? How has feeling like I’ve settled impact me as a minority, when much of my everyday life presents challenges in never feeling that way?
As much as we talk about how important it is TO vote, examining the challenges in getting us there, and the increased feelings of nervousness for us to ‘do the right thing’ isn’t talked about. You can lose your mind trying to gain your freedom.
There are a lot of moving parts to the voting process, even when it’s done right. A person has to be given the right to think through their vote, be able to talk openly about the challenges in each candidate, and not be made to feel that their vote has unforgivable consequences. We cannot administer ‘Cancel Culture’ towards voting.
Votes matter, but ultimately, so does humanity. A vote under a fractured structure does little by way of analyzing a person’s heart. Many have stopped voting, not as a dismissal to those who fought for the right, but as a way to honor them by not submitting to what they believe is insanity, doing the same thing over and over with little results.
We must not be so willing and able to lose our minds over a vote or bring about such energy and consequence over the vote.
Voting is important. The consequences of not voting are more evident than ever. But in a world where so much pressure to perform exists, it helps to lay off the guilt, fury, and judgement behind voting.
For many, the pressures of voting will prove themselves counterproductive as we oftentimes see voters who are simply too stressed out and emotionally drained with it all. If we’re clear that mental health drives behaviors, it is best to shift the messaging around voting, and provide less pressure to perform, and more allowance for those to seek out their own truths and make educated and conscious driven decisions around them.
I am an active voter, but I am also my own mental health advocate. Many mental health advocates teach others to eliminate things that stress us out, provide harsh judgements and limit our happiness.
It is in our best interest, in a world and time where anxiety, depression, and coping skills are at their limit, that we don’t mentally exhaust people out of voting. If the world’s existence depends on it, then we are better off ensuring we are all healthy enough to show up.
Opinion contributor Ana White, of Harrisburg, is the owner of Way With Words Consulting Services, LLC., which specializes in diversity and inclusion professional development training. She also works in mental health services in the Harrisburg area. Her work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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