The musty smell of the old wooden American Legion hall just north of Marthasville greeted my daughters as their father opened the wire-screen door to the basement. They wanted to turn around, head back to the car and wait; after all they could not vote — they were just 10 and 8 years old. But on this day, their father and I took a stand to ensure that our children understood that we are not apathetic about voting for our elected officials. We walked in as a family and waited.
Ever since our girls were born, one or both has accompanied us to the polls. We wanted them to understand the privilege it is to cast your opinion on how a country is led. However, today I fear that parents are sending the next generation the wrong message — apathy.
Too many times, I have heard individuals say, "I don't like any candidate, so I am not voting." "It doesn't matter who wins. We are doomed." And my personal favorite: "If I don't vote, it is not my fault."
All excuses for apathetic behavior. And just in case you don't know the meaning of apathetic, it is "showing or feeling no interest or concern." So it boggles my mind as to how individuals can have no interest or not be concerned about the future of their country. But I am here to tell you, apathy can reap horrible results for our country, our citizenship and our children. Here are just three ways:
1. Apathy impacts freedom. When we as individuals have no concern for who is leading our country, who is making the decisions for our people, or what policies are important to our country, then others start making decisions for us. The more decisions others make for us, the less they need our input. The less input we have, the fewer challenges we can make against authority. And with no one challenging authority, then we cease to become a democratic country. Apathy leads our nation down a road that rivals our very freedom — the right to choose.
2. Apathy stops progress. With every vote, there is the opportunity for change. The election process stimulates new ideas on how to keep America moving forward. Candidates and policies are brought to the forefront for vetting. It also brings those individuals that can see these ideas to fruition. However, when no one cares to engage in the process, there is no reason to have an election process. We, as U.S. citizens, lose the right to help shape what type of progress our nation stands for, which is paramount to its growth. Apathy leads our nation into a state of staleness.
3. Apathy takes away hope. This is my biggest concern for our future generations. When we, as voting citizens, become so unconcerned with voting, so lazy, so negative, so "what difference does it make?" — what does that say to the next generation? It says that America is without hope. That will simply not suffice.
With every trip to the polls, you send a message that despite everything that is going on in the world, all of the negative political messages, all of the raunchy rhetoric, that there is hope when you vote. A hope that a candidate will rise to his or her calling and serve in the office elected to by the people and for the people. A hope that progress will be made on ideas by individuals or approved measures. Ultimately, a hope that freedom still reigns in America.
So stop being apathetic. Show your kids voting counts. Get to the polls. Take your kids, even if it smells musty. It is important. It is your right. It is your privilege. And it must be modeled for the next generation.