Care enough to vote

Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride and many others.

We hear their stories and are outraged, heartbroken, overwhelmed, shocked and filled with dismay. Demonstrations over the past few weeks indicate the community wishes to be heard about these tragedies. The community cares about the killing of unarmed men and women; folks are concerned about how to obtain justice when these events occur; mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles want someone held accountable for what has happened.

However, do we care enough to use one of the most important tools in our arsenal? Are we willing to become informed, educate others and VOTE?

Admittedly, issues raised by these recent shootings are complex and multi-faceted. There is not just one answer. How do we make the world value the lives of persons demonized and stereotyped in the mass media? What do we do to prevent the proliferation of guns in our neighborhoods? What are we to do about police brutality, racial profiling, mass incarceration of people of color and misuse of “stand your ground” laws? How do we make our children feel safe in a violent environment? What are the steps we take to help them become the best that they can be when they are “under siege” and “under suspicion”?

I don’t pretend to have the answers for these questions. What I do know is that apathy is not the response.

We must participate in electing those who make decisions that affect our everyday lives — whether it is the school board member who hires the superintendent, or the prosecutor who decides what cases to bring and suggests sentences, or the judge who decides who stays locked up, who gets custody of children and how persons who violate the public trust are punished.

It is said that “all politics is local.” This is particularly true when determining who is hired to “protect and serve.” Whether you live in a city where the mayor leads day-to-day operations, or a city where a city manager or administrator runs things, those you elect as mayor, city council person or commissioner recruit and hire your police chief. That chief hires and supervises your police officers.

If we did not learn anything else from recent events, we should have learned that it matters who the police officers are who have daily contact with the public. These decisions are not made by the president or Congress. Local elected officials make the decisions about the folks who impact your everyday lives. As a voter, you determine your local elected officials.

When you don’t vote, you essentially leave that decision to others who may not represent the concerns of your community. As you have seen, these decisions can determine life or death. We cannot afford to remain silent or to be inactive.

We are told the numbers of people who vote in local elections is significantly less than those who vote in elections for president of the United States. Predictions for the November mid-term elections are for that pattern to continue.

We as a community cannot abdicate our right and duty to vote. Our quality of life and the safety of our neighborhoods depend on our actions. More importantly, our children’s ability to realize the American dream depends on adults voting for responsible and proactive people who will make the right decisions, and the same adults calling elected officials to task when they do not.

We should never forget the many sacrifices made for this cherished right to vote. Shame on us if we do! Not only are the health and well-being of our communities at stake, but the future of our precious children and generations to come depend on you and me.

How will we respond?