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Why Not Vote? View Comments
I have friends who vote and friends who do not. To those who don’t vote, I would say this: the stakes are higher than losing your right to complain. Voting is the heart of democracy, the benefits of which we all enjoy, even when things don’t go your way.

This year we might hear that some 60 percent of Americans vote during a presidential election year, and that the rate varies according to age and ethnic group.

The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that, in 2010, Hispanic voters were 7 percent of all voters (an increase), blacks were 12 percent (no increase from 1998), while the percentage of voters who are Asian has been about the same for 20 years.

Older people are more likely to vote: in 2010, 21 percent of 18- to 24-year-old citizens voted, compared with 61 percent of those 65-plus.

In the 2008 presidential election, a whopping 15 million eligible voters did not vote. A third of them said they either were too busy or that they didn’t like any of the candidates or campaign issues.

Twice as bad as that, 30 million potential voters never even registered to vote. The biggest reason: 14 million said they’re “not interested in the election” or “not involved in politics.”

(Another study, by the Pew Center, says that the number of unregistered eligible voters is closer to an astounding 50 million.)

I recently asked some friends about why they did or didn’t vote. Those of us who vote regularly were taken aback by what we heard.

A Few Pathetic Excuses

One friend said, “The lines are too long.” Another suggested frustration that some of those who do vote express: “My vote isn’t changing anything—my side always loses.” A variation of that is, “There’s no point. I just stopped.”

Some younger friends (and some relatives) told me, “I move too much,” or, “It’s a pain—you have to register and all of that. It’s hard.”

One told me, “The Bush vs. Gore election was a catastrophe. It showed that the popular vote doesn’t count.”

Finally, there is one refrain that we’ve all heard a time too many: “My vote isn’t going to change the outcome.”

Hogwash!

Going Upstream

There is an old story that might shed some light. One day a man was fishing along a stream when he saw a person in the water, screaming for help. He jumped into the water and dragged the poor soul up to the bank.

No sooner had he rescued that person than another came floating downstream, arms flailing. Then another. The man found himself diving into the water again and again to rescue all of these people being dragged downstream by a strong current.

When the man’s fishing partner showed up, the first man hollered, “Help me rescue these people!” His friend replied, “No way! I’m going to run upstream and stop whoever’s throwing them into the water!”

Our nation is a lot like that today, no matter where you might fall on the political spectrum. We have enormous social problems. People are suffering poverty day in and day out.

The legally sanctioned outright killing of thousands and thousands of our unborn is horrible, almost beyond belief. We are destroying our earth with a lifestyle that is anything but the stewardship called for from the beginning of humanity.

Is it really OK to complain that voting is either inconvenient or ineffective? The slogan from our national emblem is true: E Pluribus Unum, “from the many, one.” We need to get our act together and act together rather than check out of the game.

Five Good Reasons to Vote

My voting friends offered good reasons to vote.

1. We should vote because we can vote. If you need more on that, ask anyone who has lived without the right to elect political leadership.

2. You owe it to your country to participate. We do, after all, live under a kind of social contract. We reap the benefits of society; we should, in turn, contribute to society.

3. Many local issues are on the ballot. Those local elections—whether it be support of schools, libraries, social services, or community leadership— can hinge on a handful of votes.

4. The ballot box is one place for us to use our informed consciences for the good. Our bishops remind us of that each voting season.

5. For Catholics, voting ought to be an expression of our faith. No, it’s not going to church, and it’s not overseen by any Church authority.

But voting is our chance to uphold human dignity. We each can hold our heads high, stand up, and be counted—even if things don’t go our way. We can devote our energy—in the voting booth—to protecting the dignity and rights of others, whether it be the right to life or the right to live beyond poverty.

We are a free people, our faith tells us. Voting is one way we express that.


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Pedro de San José Betancur: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de San José Betancur by Pope John Paul II in Guatemala City on July 30, 2002. Known as the "St. Francis of the Americas," Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala. 
<p>Calling the new saint an “outstanding example” of Christian mercy, the Holy Father noted that St. Pedro practiced mercy “heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.” Speaking to the estimated 500,000 Guatemalans in attendance, the Holy Father spoke of the social ills that plague the country today and of the need for change. </p><p>“Let us think of the children and young people who are homeless or deprived of an education; of abandoned women with their many needs; of the hordes of social outcasts who live in the cities; of the victims of organized crime, of prostitution or of drugs; of the sick who are neglected and the elderly who live in loneliness,” he said in his homily during the three-hour liturgy. </p><p>Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line that the Franciscans had established. </p><p>Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. </p><p>Other men came to share in Pedro's work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro's death. A Bethlehemite sisters' community, similarly founded after Pedro's death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion. </p><p>He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve <i>posadas</i> procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. </p><p>Pedro was canonized in 2002.</p> American Catholic Blog We sometimes try to do everything on our own, forgetting that the Lord wants to help us. Let's never be afraid to admit that we are weak and can't do things on our own. St. Paul gives us a great example: "On my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:5).


 
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