Rights are wonderful because they don’t have to be exercised

I want you to imagine that the government starved you for months. All you had was some dirty water and occasional garbage scraps to keep you alive. Then your hero came along. Your hero was starving too. And she fought for you. She fought for your right to eat. She fought for your right to have access to food. She told you this right was a basic human right. You never got a chance to meet your hero, but you knew who she was. You were grateful that she fought for your right to have food. Of course, when food finally became available to you, you gorged yourself. You ate up every single last morsel and cherished the flavor of what you had been denied for so long. Eventually, though, you became a normal person. You ate at appropriate times but not every time someone put food in front of you. That’s normal, right? That’s a normal response to such conditions?

But then what if people around you started saying you were ungrateful for everything that hero fought for? What if they said that it’s not just enough for you to recognize her fight and eat three meals? What if they said you have to eat every single time food is in front of you? Wouldn’t you think this person is ridiculous?

Think about all the basic human rights you have (or don’t have because your government is withholding them from you). The right to speak your mind. The right to lie. The right to walk outside when you feel like it. It’s possible that, depending on what country you’re in, someone fought or is fighting very hard for you to have those basic human rights or to keep them. Once denied those rights, will you take advantage of them right when you get them? Of course. But that doesn’t mean you have to always take advantage of them. I have just as much the right to stay inside as to walk outside. I have just as much the right to lie as to speak the truth. I have just as much the right to affirm my government as to speak out against it.

If people can guilt you into always exercising a right that has been fought for, then it no longer becomes a right but a mandate, a coercion, an obligation, a nuisance. That’s why people have to really stop with this business of making others feel guilty for not voting. I think voting is a wonderful thing. I love going to the polling booth. I like connecting the lines with the marker and feeding my voting sheet into the machine. But if there’s an election I miss, well I miss it. If someone tells me she’s not voting, I don’t ask her “Why not?” in an accusatory manner. I leave her alone. It’s her right not to vote just as much as it is her right to vote. Voting’s cool, but it’s also not perfect. In America, at least, we don’t live in a democracy, and your vote doesn’t always count—either because of flawed tallying, a bad court ruling, or the stupid electoral college system (by which a presidential candidate who doesn’t get the largest minority or majority of popular votes can still win).

So, please, voting guilt-trippers, get off your high horse. If you, like me, like to vote and enjoy the process, good for you. If you think you’re a better citizen or more of an intellectual because you vote, then you’re just deluding yourself and annoying others.

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7 Comments

  1. I agree with the first and second paragraphs, but not the second. Using your example, ‘not voting’ is the same as ‘not eating.’ There are two takes on this.

    1. Voting is your CIVIC DUTY. It is (should be) REQUIRED of every CITIZEN in a free state. The people choose their leaders, but of course, this only works if people actually do the choosing. In your example, the right to eat is meaningless if you decide not to eat because you’d rather have steak than chicken.

    2. Voting every now-and-then is different from never voting. Those who do not vote EVER are tossing their food in the trash.

    It is not about a guilt trip, it’s about giving back. Imagine if the hero who won your food-rights was lost one day, and came to your house. Would you give her directions? I hope so. Every time, even if there was a map right down the street.

  2. That statement is not a complete contradiction. If a “free state” were to mean there are no requirements, then a free state would be one with no laws. It would be total anarchy and hence not even a state at all. You can have a free state with laws and requirements. For example, you are required to do jury duty… but it doesn’t mean as a juror you have no choices. You do have a choice to vote on whether the defendant is guilty or not.

  3. You can have a free state with laws and requirements.

    I don’t think any state in the world is a free state today.

    The free state is a myth.

    Democracy is just another form of people ruling over people.

  4. @hari:

    Yes, agreed, by “free state,” I meant one in which people have negative Freedom; that is, Freedom FROM oppression and persecution. I did not mean positive Freedom; that is, Freedom TO do anything one wishes.

    I do not believe that humans can rule themselves. Government is necessary for a healthy community. I don’t expect everyone to share this view, but I was assuming it when I wrote what I did.

  5. You’re right that there can be no absolute freedom.

    But from there to force people to vote in an election is going a bit far, don’t you think?

    Voting is a right, and should never be an enforced duty. Even not voting is exercising one’s rights if one is not happy with any of the candidates.

    So there.

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