Rights and Responsibilities

Today I came across this article from Q Political.

In it, Jeremy Schneider, a fan of Mike Rowe, wrote the celebrity to ask simply:

“Hey Mike, I have nothing but respect for you. Your no-nonsense outlook and incredible eloquence have really had a profound impact in my life. Can you please encourage your huge following to go out and vote this election? I would never impose on you by asking you to advocate one politician over another, but I do feel this election could really use your help. I know that there are many people out there who feel like there is nothing they can do. Please try to use your gifts to make them see that they can do something – that their vote counts.”

The author of the article then summarizes Mr. Rowe’s response as:

“Mike’s response is arguably the most perfect thing I’ve read about voting in America, and is filled with tons of wisdom. In short, he likens the right to vote to the right to bear arms, and proceeds to question whether we should feel obligated to cast a ballot at all.”


Now, let’s be aware that Mike Rowe has for quite some time advocated his politics with a decidedly conservative libertarian bias, so coming from him this response is not at all surprising.

The person who brought all this to my attention had this to say as an introduction:

“I like Mike Rowe sometimes, but this speaks of privilege. We have the right to vote because many people fight and died for it. And because of that it is a duty, no matter your beliefs or leanings. It’s not a prefect system. You may not like the options, but someone voting put the candidates in that place. So, votes do matter. Elections have consequences.”

You do have the right not to vote, it is not mandatory or compulsory.  There are arguments that it should be, but the concern would be that whoever had the responsibility of enforcing it could then compel compliance toward the outcome they preferred.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote.

In fact, it is one of very few responsibilities of citizenship asked of us for all the rights granted to us under the Constitution.   The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website lists 9 responsibilities of citizenship in our nation:

  • Support and defend the Constitution.
  • Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
  • Participate in the democratic process.
  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
  • Participate in your local community.
  • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
  • Serve on a jury when called upon.
  • Defend the country if the need should arise.

In his answer, Mr. Rowe is both right and wrong.  He begins with:

I’m afraid I can’t encourage millions of people whom I’ve never met to just run out and cast a ballot, simply because they have the right to vote. That would be like encouraging everyone to buy an AR-15, simply because they have the right to bear arms.

Which is a remarkably irresponsible false equivalency, and surprising coming from Mr. Rowe.  

Normally, this is where I’d tell you that anyone advising you not to vote is doing so because they don’t want you to show up and vote against their interests or the candidate they prefer.

However, he goes on to explain that:

None of the freedoms spelled out in our Constitution were put there so people could cast uninformed ballots out of some misplaced sense of civic duty brought on by a celebrity guilt-trip. The right to assemble, to protest, to speak freely – these rights were included to help assure that the best ideas and the best candidates would emerge from the most transparent process possible.

And in this respect he is absolutely correct.

Looking back at the responsibilities of citizenship they could be summed up quite simply into just five statements:

  • Be a law-abiding citizen
  • Be an informed and involved voter.
  • Serve on a Jury when called
  • Defend the country and its principles when necessary
  • Don’t violate the rights of another person

Most of us consider ourselves law abiding citizens.   But for more and more, the general rule of thumb is becoming it’s only illegal if you get caught.

Many people wallow in willful ignorance, refusing to educate themselves on the important issues facing their communities, cities, counties, states, and our nation, so that when it comes time to vote, they are unprepared to make an intelligent choice.

Almost every one hates being called to Jury duty, and as soon as they see the summons they begin looking for excuses that will enable to them to “get out of it.”

As a result, we’ve allowed self serving politicians to drive all the true statesmen out of our governmental process and corrupt the laws to their own advantage.

And, they keep us divisively pitted against each other so we won’t join together and turn our attention to fixing the damage they’ve already done.

If you choose not to exercise your right and responsibility to vote because you embrace the negligence of willful ignorance then maybe you don’t deserve those other rights, but you certainly shouldn’t let your uninformed outrage interfere with the actual selection of our leaders.  So please, as Mike said, don’t vote, we’ll all be better off without your input.

However, if you are one of the many well informed, but disenfranchised and disheartened people that want to vote, want to make a difference, but just don’t see the point now, either because you can’t abide any of the candidates or because you feel that your vote truly won’t make any difference.   I understand the feeling.   I’ve been there in previous elections.

It’s hard to get excited about an election with a candidate — who’s immediately family is one of two (Clinton and Bush) that has held the office of President, Vice President or Secretary of State for all but four years of the last three and a half decades and is directly or indirectly responsible for many of the issues we face to day — offering up a lackluster opposition to a narcissistic fascist perfectly willing to stoke racial and religious discord by inciting White Nationalism to further his personal agenda.

I was wrong.   So are you.

According to the folks at The United States Election Project, in the 2012 Presidential election only 58% of eligible citizens voted, in the general elections of 2014 only 36% showed up to vote.

If you choose not to vote, you certainly don’t deserve to complain about losing your rights and freedoms when the people you didn’t vote against remove them.

We have reached this point because far too many intelligent but disenfranchised people are abstaining out of frustration and disgust.  If we want to take our county back from those self serving politicians and put an end to adversarial government so that we can re-establish cooperative leadership by true statesmen we must get out and cast our votes.  We must do so with as much knowledge and honest evaluation of the issues and candidates as possible.  And in today’s 24/7 infotainment industry presenting opinion as factual and supposedly unbiased news, we must vet everything as thoroughly as possible.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.   We have no one who can save us but ourselves.

If we do not do it at the ballots, at every level of government, on every election and initiative, then we will reach a point where it will be too late for any solution other than violent revolution.   That day looms closer and closer with each election day that passes.

Ultimately Mr. Rowe was right, if you’re not going to bother to vote responsibility, then don’t vote.  I just wish he had packaged his answer better.

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