I feel like there are a handful of different types of people in the world. I’m not talking about all the millions of differences in the way we are, but in the basic ways we think and act. Like ‘personality types’. People tell me I’m type A, but sometimes I feel like I have traits from a few different types. That’s besides the point. I want to talk about the types of voters.
A few days ago, my city had it’s mayoral election. I got up early, armed with research and feeling righteous in my decision, filled in the ballot, and handed in my vote. I put the ‘I voted’ sticker on my laptop, and went about my day feeling proud.
Things went wrong the next day. I was with a family member and the results of the election came out. I was happy to exclaim ‘the guy I voted for won!’. Wow, did that open up a window for anger. ‘How could you vote for him?? He’s ruining the city??’ I looked sort of blankly at my family member for a moment. Ruining the city? How? Trying to be rational about such a loud and sudden statement, I went on to list the good things he’s done, what makes him better than his opponent, his goals, his track record, etc. I was armed with the knowledge of my decision, and I believed in his cause. Not only that, he’s always publicly posted his goals and his progress can be clearly seen. In my opinion he’s made amazing strides to make this city as strong and beautiful as possible. She stomped on every point I made with a sort of belligerent ‘that doesn’t make up for blah blah blah’.
After a little while of arguing, I asked an innocent question. ‘Who did you vote for?’
‘Oh, I didn’t vote.’
I believe that everyone has a right to voice their opinions. I will have a lively debate with anyone who has opinions opposite to mine. I am not a bully, and I don’t believe that we all have to think the same thing. But I don’t get this need to argue a side when you don’t know any other side, don’t care to actually look into the matter, and don’t care enough to vote and have an official say. I believed in who I thought should be mayor, so I voted. I can tell you why I voted and why I chose the person I did.
Now, I set a trap. I asked my family member what exactly he’d done so wrong to elicit such a strong hatred from her. She quickly listed two things. Two things that had been in the headlines the last two days. Two things that, if true, barely go up against all the good things he’s done. His ‘ruining the city’ was because he’d taken away a major street to put in a bike lane. A bike lane that has made biking in the city soooo much safer, as I can say as a cyclist. Now, I understand that drivers may have been pissed off. I asked her ‘how often do you take that street in your car?’. I already knew the answer, but I wanted her to say it out loud. She doesn’t have a car and she doesn’t drive. I have a car and I drive, and it barely affected my daily life.
Here’s why this sort of person bothers me. It’s not that her opinion is different than mine, it’s that the opinion isn’t hers. Maybe she read a headline, or maybe an equally uneducated friend gave her the information. Either way, the reason for hating this particular candidate are unformed and she can’t rationally back them up in an argument.
It’s sort of like bible versus. You can open the bible and pull out a verse that says in one sentence that if we don’t believe in god we’ll burn in hell. One sentence could mean so much and so little. Taking one single thing out of the entire book does not give you any sense what the rest of the book says. There are chapters on love and acceptance, and good and purity, and believing the way that you are able to believe. But we focus on the one thing that convinces us not to love a brother, or sister, or neighbor, and feel justified in our hate. My family member picked up one fact about the mayoral candidate, and that decided her entire opinion.
Sometimes, that one fact does impact everything. Sometimes that one bike lane destroyed the economy on the entire street, ruined natural habitats for seven endangered species of birds and was never completed properly. Sometimes the one headline says it all. In this case, it didn’t. It was a blip on the radar. And it shouldn’t have been a blip on any radar for a person who doesn’t drive or ride her bike. She walks, which is admirable, but the new bike lane did not affect her walking habits. If you look into the bike lane affects, you can see where traffic went, what people had to say, and while yes, some drivers were upset, others found that avoiding that main stream got them home faster. It wasn’t a failure by any stretch. But hey, I give people the right to be upset if it negatively affected them or someone they know.
I want to go back to the questions of ‘who did you vote for?’. There is a guy in my office who voted for someone I didn’t. We sat down and talked about it, and he made some good points. The candidate he chose impacted him and his lifestyle, and made sense for his future the way he imagined it. It didn’t match mine, but that’s not the point. I don’t begrudge him his vote just because it’s different than mine. I understand that we all want something different in our city, and based on our entire lives and experience, we may have different ways of coming to similar conclusions. The points I didn’t feel would work, he felt was the only things that would work.
There is another type of person in this entire idea. The ‘I didn’t vote so I don’t really have an opinion’ person. I went for lunch with two colleagues, and I asked them if they’d voted. Neither of them had, and they both had different reasons. One colleague had just gotten his Canadian citizenship, and hadn’t had a chance to register because all the paperwork was still in progress. Can’t really say anything to that. The other colleague simply said ‘I’m uneducated as a voter, and I didn’t want to just vote for someone random.’
I respect that answer. I mean I’d like to say ‘get involved!’ this is your city! but I’m not going to. Just as you have a right to vote, you have a right not to be involved. Not everyone spends the time to really learn about the city and its needs, or has an opinion on who should lead us. He thought that no vote was better than the wrong vote. Do I agree? Somewhat. Voting is not mandatory, and an uneducated vote can have serious ramifications sometimes, especially if it’s widespread. One year I didn’t vote because I honestly couldn’t decide between two candidates. I made lists and tried to figure it out, but I couldn’t. I felt like I didn’t have the proper information to know who would be the best option. So I didn’t vote and left it up to my fellow voters. Another time I found that I couldn’t figure out who might be the best, so I voted based on how it would affect my industry instead of the entire city. Was that right? It affects me personally, my future and career, so yes, I felt it was right. I still educated myself enough to figure out which candidate would have the most impact on the lives of myself and my colleagues.
I’m annoyed by people like my family member who had the strength of opinion to really lay into me for voting for the ‘wrong person’, when they couldn’t be bothered to vote themselves. In my mind, that person is ignorant. I believe in everyone’s right to have a say. I don’t believe in having a say if you can’t be bother to do the basic amount of research. But hey, maybe my thoughts that my city is worth the hassle of being informed is totally misguided. I love where I live, and I’m invested in the city’s future. I will never tell you you’re wrong for your thoughts, but I will stand up for what I believe.
I used to say ‘I’m not really into women’s rights’. Let me make sure I explain this properly. It’s not that I don’t believe in them, it’s just that I’m not currently in that particular fight. I believe that everyone, no matter who they are, should have the same rights. I respect fully the fight that women have gone through to get me to the point where I can say that I have rights. My job is to use them. I have the right to vote, and I take that seriously. I have the right to do anything I want, so I take that seriously. But having the right to do something doesn’t give you entitlement over other people. They have the same rights you do, and so you’re on the same level. My rights are equal to your rights. My vote is equal to your vote. The difference is I understand the responsibility of those rights, and I respect them for the power they give me, and I take it all seriously. I hope I explained that properly. It can be a sensitive issue to talk about rights. Rights should not be taken away, but they should be understood and respect.