A little while ago, I wrote a post on my Medium blog about the importance of voting in a democratic society.
I highlighted how democracy is supposed to function on the backs of its citizens, and that taking part in the governing of the country is not just a luxury but a responsibility.
If we want to keep the freedoms that we've fought so hard for, we need to be willing to go to bat for them again and again. If you need an example of how hard-won rights can be stolen back, just look at the loss of Roe v Wade in the United States.
We need to be aware of the potential ways our freedoms could be stripped away, and we can't afford to walk on eggshells when it comes time to protest. There are always going to be unscrupulous assholes who can, and will, take your choice from you the second they think they can get away with it.
I didn't relish writing that article, but I feel that it's more important than ever to keep voting rights in mind as we watch what's going on in the United States. It really would be all too easy to lose those liberties that we take for granted, both within and outside the country.
After all; here in Canada, our politics always follow the pattern set by the American government. It's practically a given that any hard-right swing is going to be echoed by our own politicians. This shit matters here just as much as it does there.
Like it or not, the U.S.A is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. It has a staggeringly powerful military, a massive population, and it absolutely dominates global trade.
If the economy of the United States were to tank, the entire world would come crashing down with it. It's happened before. Several times.
So, naturally, watching it's current devolution into political madness has most people around the world chewing our nails in silent terror. Don't worry, it isn't just you. We're all scared.
The survival of democracy within the United States is of paramount importance. We simply cannot afford to let that country stumble and trip into authoritarianism, and we should be doing all we can to help it maintain its footing. We can't vote in U.S.A elections from the outside, but we can help in other ways.
Thanks to the internet and social media these days, we have a tremendous amount of influence over politics around the globe. Politicians base their platforms off of hot topics of interest!
Remember the Overton Window? Seriously, guys. It's super important that you know about it.
Telling people what to do with their vote isn't a great solution. For starters, the whole point of a democracy is that people vote according to their beliefs and needs, not because they're following marching orders. People must have the freedom to vote according to their own conscience, even if we don't like the person they're voting for.
On top of that...since when has telling people what to do ever worked? I don't know if you've noticed, but people tend to be stubborn. None of us likes being ordered around, especially not by a total stranger...outside of very specific situations where consent is key.
So, there's no making demands. People will vote based on the information that they have, and they will make judgement calls based on how well they think a representative will actually serve them.
That can get complicated, though. It can be difficult to get an accurate picture of what a potential leader is actually advocating for, especially if you don't know how to dig up the information on your own.
And here's where the rest of us can actually be of use. After all; access to the world's information rests at our fingertips, only one click away.
One of my readers on that Medium article expressed her frustrations in the comments, saying that she was finding it harder and harder to figure out which politicians were advocating for the policies she supports. It seems that as the years go by, finding information that can be relied upon is only growing more difficult.
Politicians obfuscate their true plans, hiding behind buzzwords and dog whistles and shaking hands behind closed doors. And so often, promises made aren't even being kept when those elected actually make it into office.
The best way to assist in maintaining democracy is to make this process of research easier. The simplest way to combat the spread of misinformation is to disseminate facts and citations.
Having frank discussions about political figures, contrasting what they say against what their record suggests they will do, is incredibly helpful. Directly refuting obvious lies is also very important; if you catch somebody making a false statement, don't just laugh and turn away.
Call that shit out. Call it out, and back your words up with receipts. Cite sources, show your work, prove that you aren't making shit up just to make the other side of the aisle look bad.
For that matter, don't stop at fact-checking your political opponants. Check your own side, too. The more we allow politicians to lie, even if they're ostensibly on our side, the more we give the opposition ammunition.
We do not want 'fake news' to become the standard modus operandi, because that doesn't help anyone in the long run. The goal is more honesty, not less.
Regardless of whether or not you think it makes your guys look tough, dishonesty and misrepresenting lies as truth is the best way to ensure that the political arena remains dirty.
Elected representatives make the laws that govern our lives. The last thing we want to feel is anxiety about whether or not we can take them at their word.