Fifty years ago, voting was a right worth dying for by those who were being denied. Many of us were reminded of this when we watched the movie “Selma” earlier this year. Yet, here we are at the beginning of the biggest election season, and the issue of voter participation is still relevant. However, every year we are confronted with the issue of voter participation in our government. Today, voting has become the forgotten right, but when I think of this in terms of what has been done to secure this right. A right that has long stood to signify the epitome of civic duty. I am convinced that in the 21st century – Duty is the new Right.
I had the privilege of casting my vote this week. I was struck with the significance of the event as I sat and made my selections. I thought of the images from the movie Selma. I thought of how many of our forefathers had a very different experience at the polls. Unlike me, they were not greeted with a smile and some last-minute voting information from both parties. They were greeted with tests, quizzes, and requirements to prove their citizenship. As I thought of this, it totally changes my voting experience. It made me realize that this process voting has transcended beyond the status of a right but was now a full-on duty of our citizenship.
So you might be wondering what is the difference between a duty and a right? Well short of a long discussion of definitions and meanings, I will attempt to put this in terms that I know and understand as a 26-year military veteran. A right is a privilege extended to the citizenry by the government. These rights secure the foundation of the government and serve as the fabric of how society interacts. Rights set the standard of what it means to be a part of society. A duty is an obligation of a citizen to sustain their government. In the military, we characterize our service as a duty to our country. It what we give back to our country to ensure its stability, its success, and its greatness in the world. Yes, voting is our duty!
For those of us that have won this right on the backs of others, minorities, women, and immigrants this right carry a greater weight… it is called Duty! It is our duty to participate in the stability of our country, it is our duty to support the success of our country, and it is our duty to ensure the greatness of our country is founded in the diversity of our ideas and not in a single thought or idea. Now in the 21st century, our vote is our duty, to ourselves, our children, our forefathers, and our country.