Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Did You Vote? 选举了吗?

Most of my friends will likely gasp to hear that I did not vote yesterday.  <...>

OK - to me this has been another concept that was a little hard to grasp.  Growing up, people always told me what to do, not asking what I wanted.  Not that I regret or resent my childhood, as I love my hometown and am proud of being her child.  But the concept of being part of the decision making body for everything that affected my life is remote and foreign.

Not long ago, I had a small taste of democracy that affected me.  I live in a condo complex that was showing its ages.  We had peeling and faded maroon painted doors, yellowish and browning fence and pasty white walls, reminiscent of color schemes found in scenes from "Golden Girls".  Plants along the complex walks were overgrown, shaggy, and covered in webs.  The worst was the swimming pool, which had a huge crack next to the edge, where concrete had sank down in one place and protruded in another, which nearly tripped our neighbor's daughter Carla and I am sure some other folks.

Though I noticed these problems, it never occurred to me to do anything about it.  Even when some neighbors started to knock on the door and hand me a ballot for election of a new homeowner's association's board,  I tossed it aside without a second thought.  Then some candidates came campaigning to tell us about their plans.  I still wasn't interested.  I did not want to be bothered.

Despite of my disinterest, a new home owner association was elected and announced some dramatic new plans.  Sure, I thought.  This is good politics.

Yet I before I could hand out more cynicism and sarcasm, a painting crew had arrived and quickly transformed our complex into the new millennium.  A sophisticated forest green now graces our doors, accompanied by a medium tan on the walls and cream colored trim around the window and door frames.  Our complex suddenly look as sharp as the trendiest coffee chain sensations.   Moreover, many of the dead or overgrown plants were removed and replanted, the swimming pool concrete completely repaired, surrounding areas replanted and cleaned up, new tiles were put in, and new pool lounge chairs replaced the broken ones.   At the end of it all, the complex had a celebration party that was to become a new tradition linking the neighbors together, closer and into a real community.   The newly elected association board had delivered on every one of its campaign promises.

This was my first first hand democracy at work experience.  It stands directly in contrast with what I knew growing up.  I signed up to participate in the PTA shortly after, and voting at school meetings to voice opinion on subjects that mattered to me.  A close friend and I disagreed on a budget issue at school, yet we both got to say our piece, and let it ride the wave of the polls.

Some of my friends (of all origins including local) still did not or would not vote.  "Too busy", "I don't care about the issues this year",  "I got sick", "my vote won't make a difference statistically" etc.   Yet a majority of them did, and proudly display to others that they simply have voted.  I suppose it is another form of freedom to be able to chose not to participate, in one year, or ever.  Yet I hope, myself included, that we would soon all joining in to learn, ask questions, and take part in an important transformational process at the heart of our lives.

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