Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Time to Exercise your Privilege

Today, Americans across the US will hopefully be casting their votes for the next president of the United States. My husband and his fellow American expats have also (hopefuuly) cast their absentee votes. Despite having strong opinions about this election, I will not be voting in the American elections because that would be illegal. (Except in Chicago but that’s another story.)

Many of you may not have realized that my own home and native land, Canada, had an election last month. On Tuesday, October 14th, a record low number of people showed up to vote in the same idiot they elected the last time around. I would have loved to have a say about this but I wasn’t allowed. You see, I am no longer Canadian enough to have a say about anything that goes on in Canada.

I still remember how excited I was to vote for the first time shortly after my 18th birthday. I must have told everyone I saw in the parking lot, in the hallway, and in the gym where our polling station was located that this was my first time voting. That moment was the culmination of weeks spent researching the issues and learning what both sides had to say. Voting, we were taught in school, is not a right, but a privilege that people have literally died to give us. And as a budding poli-sci major I felt that I was changing the world with my check mark. Who knows, maybe I was. But I won’t be able to do so ever again.

According to Elections Canada, people who have lived outside of Canada for more than five years are not eligible to vote. The general idea behind boycotting my opinion is that those of us who don’t pay taxes shouldn’t have a say about who spends those tax dollars. And let’s be honest, I’m not about to voluntarily pay taxes in a country I haven’t called home in over 10 years no matter how much I love it.

Americans are allowed to vote no matter how long they live abroad. Of course, they also pay taxes on all monies earned over US$85,000. (That’s a whole other ball of nonsense for another day!) The pundits tell us that this may be the most important election of our time. It is certainly seems that way here in Egypt where people have randomly come up to me and urged me to vote for a particular non-moose hunting party which shall remain nameless.

Americans have the hopes and fears of the entire world at their doorsteps today. The box you check could change the future. Be strong and take that burden with you to the polls with pride. You are powerful. You are a citizen of a democratic country that values your opinion enough to ask you for it every four years. Now go vote for all of us who can’t.


LadyFi said...

Good post! It really is important to vote this time round - and hopefully to bring about a change that we all so desperately hope for!

I can't vote in Britain either, nor in Sweden, where I live...

traveler one said...

What really feels weird is not being able to vote anywhere! But I have to admit the 10% tax here in Albania does sort of make up for it. :)

G in Berlin said...

As I mentioned by your other post, I pay for the privilege of maintaining my American franchise. You say that you learned that voting was a privilege, not a right: did you mean that? Then you should feel privileged to have the right to support the political system and country that is yours with your tax dollars and to choose the people (or try to) that will uphold your beliefs and ideals.

I must say, one of the most annoying parts of being an ex-pat is the open way that I am accosted about my vote. The open way that Germans, at least, seem to feel that they understand my country, a melting pot with all the problems that entails, from their viewpoint in their tiny homogeneous country, and how they can call people they disagree with hypocrites, rather than different (or mistaken, which is what I call them).
BTW, we have an earned income exclusion, our marginal tax rate is even higher than it is on unearned income, such as interest and dividends.
So, pay taxes and vote if that's what is necessary for you to be enfranchised and you actually care to be enfranchised. I don't get to vote here in Germany where I do pay taxes, and my husband can't vote in the US where he pays taxes too. But I wouldn't give up my right to vote in the US to vote here in Germany.

Bluefish said...

Our Canadian elections was a waste of time, human resources and money. I worked at that elections and I had slightly hope that Liberals would take over, but no chance.

Stacey said...

Great post...good message! I will be voting for the first time in a presidential election, and I am thankful I have the opportunity to do so.

Amanda said...

Another Canuck who can't vote - in fact, the last election I was able to vote in was in Scotland, oddly enough. I live in Korea and certainly can't vote here.

Brenda said...

I do feel quite fortunate to be able to vote, and I make every effort to do so.

Hi! I'm Janola. said...

Hooray! I voted by absentee write-in ballot two weeks ago. I mailed and faxed it in and felt sooooo empowered!

This trip has definitely made me appreciate all the rights and privileges I have at home as an American!!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I work with some Canucks so indeed I knew about your election! One of the rare and few! hahaha

Michelle said...

I love all the encouragement on voting that I've seen in the past couple days! And thanks for stopping by on BATW for Chicago. I hope you come back to visit soon!

Nicole said...

I didn't know that about Canada.
Makes sense though.
I haven't voted for years now.
But like you, I'm away from Germany since years.