Free to Choose.

Temperatures are rising and tempers are flaring as we inch closer to election day.  This is the first time I have seen our nation in such a divisive state over politics.  My social media feed has never seen so much emotionally loaded speech in its ten-year existence.  And while I can easily detach myself from the online discussions, it’s another thing to excuse yourself from face to face interactions.  The experience is different when people you know make the same justifications right in front of you.  And when their language seems to imply that you are making poor choices.

I have kept my silence for the most part.  I have reserved my opinions mainly because I felt I have no right to speak.  I am not part of the electorate – I failed to register and renew my voter’s status last year.  I didn’t think much of it then; I felt that I wouldn’t have been able to make a choice and take a stand, anyway.  But I regret it now.  God convicted me of my complacency and my indifference.  How I wish I can cast my vote on May 9.

Legitimately registered voters will have every right to say that I am in no position to speak on this matter.  I accept my mistake.  But I cannot simply be an onlooker.  The stakes are too high, and the price, too steep.  As a citizen of this nation, I find it difficult to remain silent.  I may not be able to vote, but I can still share my views.

Disclaimer – I am not here to change your mind.  Anyone who has already decided whom to vote for will not be convinced otherwise.  I am here to appeal to those who are still undecided.  Your vote counts, and you should value it.  Choose wisely.  Do your research.  Weigh the facts.

Those who are going to the polls should separate conjecture from opinion, hearsay from truth.  It is so easy to be swayed by grand, emotional statements and nice-sounding (even heroic) answers.  It is so easy to judge a friend’s opinion as sound, and take it as your own.  But each voter has the privilege and responsibility to choose ON THEIR OWN.  Not because the crowd seems to be going in a certain direction, not because your peers are voting a specific way.  Pray for discernment and understanding.  Sift through the deluge of information (or non-information) carefully.

Know where you stand on key issues.  What are your priorities?  Would you rather have peace and security, or high quality social services?  Would you rather have efficient public transport, or stamp out corruption?

No candidate can promise to do everything – if he does, then he probably won’t be able to deliver on them.  Choose which issues are most important to you, and align your decision-making with that.  The clearer you are about your priorities, the easier it will be to choose whom to support.

Assess promises and platforms based on how actionable and concrete they are.  A goal that does not have clear strategies and plans is far less likely to be achieved than those with identified steps (even if they are only broad strokes).  Focus on plans that address your key concerns.  Which candidate has ticked the most important boxes on your list?

Now a few thoughts for those who have already chosen their candidate (if you are still with me).

When I had shared my thoughts on whom I would vote for, a friend ask me point blank – so you would rather have corruption?  I was offended, and also grieved at her simplistic view.  Not voting for the professed crime-fighter does does not mean you support corruption or crime.  The same way that voting for the ruling party does not mean that you think that the current government is perfect.  We have our own criteria in choosing.  Some choose based on what they think should be addressed first.  Others choose based on what is most achievable or realistic. Others choose based on highest aspirations and their personal vision.  Still others choose based on perceived greatest need.  We are all given the choice, and it is personal.  It is every person’s right to choose.  You can ask how others came to their decision, but always frame questions in a neutral way.  Slanted questioning reveals slanted views – and has greater potential to strain relationships.

The person supporting a different candidate is not your enemy.  The friend who staunchly defends his choice by leaning upon perceived personal biases is not your enemy.  Your enemy is the one who makes you think that you are fighting against each other.  Our enemy is the one who says – these people don’t respect your opinion, or your values, or your dreams.  Our enemy is the voice that says those who disagree with you are gullible or illogical or prejudiced.  It is that voice which insists that you be heard, and believed as right or at least sensible, while everyone else is wrong or irrational.  It is that which blinds you to others’ realities, and keeps you from extending grace.

In the midst of the arguing, name-calling, and mudslinging, we’ve lost sight of the key thing.  Most of us want the same thing.  We want things to get better.  Who doesn’t want the country’s problems to be solved?

We disagree on who can make that happen, based on how they will run the government.  Some believe that there must be drastic change for our country to improve.  Others view progress as steadily keeping to the road we are on.  But the premise is the same – we want a better life.

We forget that we belong to the same country.  We hold the same citizenship, and we are voting for ONE GOVERNMENT.  We are working towards the same goal, just different ideas on how to get there.  And none of us know for sure which way is the best way to go.  We think we do, but we don’t.  Only God knows.

The spirit of divisiveness will be the death of this country.  We are already a fractured state – with so many different languages, cultures, beliefs, and norms, we do not need another reason to hate each other.  We want the same things, in different packaging.  Recognise that at the end of the day, whoever wins, WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER.

We often blame our government, our neighbours, our systems for that state that our country is in.  We fail to remember that WE ARE PART OF THIS COUNTRY.  Where we are is a result of collective action and collective decision.  We may not have directly acted on national issues, but our attitudes and our behaviour shape the society we live in.  Our circumstances are as much a product of our individual actions as it is the decisions made by the few.  If there is corruption, it is because we have turned a blind eye to small, daily acts of bribery on the streets.  If there is poverty, it is because we have sought our own comfort without thinking of others.  If there is inefficiency, it is because we take shortcuts for our own convenience rather than follow set procedures.

We want change, and we think we can get it with a new president.  Much like the Jews in Jesus’ time, we are looking for a Messiah.  We make him out to be that one great ruler who can fix our societal ills.  But Jesus has shown them then, as He shows us now – man’s greatest problem is not the oppression outside, but the evil inside.  We can change our country only if there is change in every person.  To live rightly is the biggest choice each of us needs to make, every single day.

What do you choose?

 

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