To vote, or not to vote, that is the question. And while this is a rather banal, and fairly cliche use of Hamlet’s famous line, it’s a question that faces a lot of people at the moment, especially those in my generation.
For some, their single vote doesn’t seem to have the power to make a difference in the grand scheme of things. They feel puny, and insignificant, and that it won’t matter either way who or what they vote for. For others, they’re chilled by indecision, and unable to sort through the seemingly endless stream of policies and politics that assail them at every turn. They feel they are drowning in an overwhelming wave of information.
With this in mind, I’d like to share why I vote, despite all of the obstacles that seem to be barring the way.
Before I begin, I think it’s important I clarify that I’m not here to persuade or argue others into voting. Rather, I would like to simply share my reasons, in hopes that others will stop to think, and ask themselves the question I’ve asked myself: “Why do I vote?”
Let me first illustrate with an example from literature. Many of you are familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” Throughout this story, we follow Frodo, a hobbit, and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Pippin and Mary Took, and others as they struggle through numerous trials on their quest to destroy the One Ring. These trials include wearying treks through icy mountains and deep mines, and fierce battles with orcs, balrogs and Nazgûl.
Failure after failure falls upon Frodo and the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring, until it seems that there’s no way forward. All is lost, and there’s no hope left. But then, when all the odds seem to be against them, they’re able to overcome their difficulties, destroy the Ring, and emerge victorious.
How was this possible? Was it because of the skill of powerful wizards and kings, or the aid of miraculous gifts of elves and dwarves? No.
In the end, the Ring was destroyed, and peace restored, because of one small hobbit: Sam Gamgee, the faithful friend and gardener of Frodo. Though a seemingly insignificant character in the larger epic narrative, it was Sam Gamgee’s hope and sense of duty that helped Frodo to move forward and successfully complete the task given him.
Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with voting. Let me explain.
One of the reasons why Sam was key to the success of the quest to Mordor was his immense sense of duty and hope. His seemingly small acts eventually added up to become something much greater. He didn’t always know what the outcome was going to be, nor did he really understand his place in the overarching narrative, but he was willing to press forward because he had made a promise, and had a duty to fulfill.
Similarly, even though my vote may seem small and insignificant, it’s a valuable contribution to the votes of others. Those I vote for may win, or they may not, but regardless, this small act can become a great wave of change. Just like a grand castle cannot be built without the individual stones, so too can we not make a real difference without our individual votes.
And just like Sam was able to continue on because of his sense of duty, I vote because of my sense of duty. As a citizen of this country, I have the right to participate in elections by casting my vote. Because of this right, I feel that I have a responsibility to do whatever I can to exercise that right, and to vote when I am called to do so. I don’t always know what the outcome may be, but I don’t let this stop me from moving forward.
And now, I would like to ask you: Why do you vote? Or maybe, why do you not vote? Is it because you feel that you don’t matter, or that you just don’t know which way to turn? Perhaps the next time you hesitate with this question, remember the example of Sam Gamgee, and that even one small hobbit — or in this case, one small vote — can change the world for the better.