On this voting day, 2012, I’ve been reflecting on what truly stands behind the right to vote in the United States of America. It’s a fragile thing, called freedom. The majority of Americans live under the assumption that if you are born in this country and you exercise your right to vote, that you are doing so, freely. For the duration of my marriage to my ex-husband, I can honestly say – with confidence – that I was not given that right.
For 17 years I was forced to vote for whoever my ex-husband deemed worthy. Four presidential elections, to be exact. Some people have asked, “How were you forced, when no one has the right to make you choose?” I answer them by saying “No one has the right to intimidate another human being, whether its simply to bully for their own entertainment, or to coerce someone into choosing an option that better suits the one in control.” In my case, he would batter me, lecture me for hours until I was exhausted, and then take me to the polls himself and sit right beside me with no partition in between us while I marked the ballot and he marked his – something absurd to me, but for some reason quite normal to a small country town where the voting booth was inside of a church. So much for separating church and state. I made the mistake one election year of standing for my right to choose – voting for who I wanted to win instead of who he wanted. The punishment was hours of physical and verbal battering nonstop, while my children watched. It was a brainwashing experience that left me unable to look in the mirror at myself. I was convinced that I was worthless, the worst mother in the world, the worst wife in the world, and somehow mentally unstable because of my active desire to speak up, be heard, and choose freely.
Whether the case is an abusive man who uses constant battering to control a woman, or simply a church leader, friend, relative, or boss who uses the fear of condemnation to make you choose a certain lifestyle or vote a certain way – it is taking away your freedom. It is reducing the soul to ashes, making a mockery of the bravery of our founding fathers, and it happens….all over the country, everywhere. Yes, people do vote for the party or candidate that someone else thinks they should vote for. Yes, people are guilty of coercing others into doing so. If you don’t believe me, check out Facebook. Nothing can ever make it right. It destroys the human spirit.
I would like to speak to all people, who are under the thumb of a tyrant, or who may be in fear of prosecution by their peers, right now – as they go into a voting booth. If you are being forced or coerced into voting for a certain candidate and you feel like you opinion doesn’t matter, if you are feeling like no one could ever know what you’re going through. You are not alone. Your opinion matters. Don’t lose faith in yourself. I know what you are going through, I lived it for almost two decades… your agony, your fear, the feeling as your heart turns to stone…as you lose another piece of your dignity. Do not lose yourself in guilt. That thumping in your chest? Your beating heart that wakes you up everyday – It’s called purpose. You are here for a reason. Things will change. Not because of an election or a vote, but because you are worth it.
Now excuse me, while I go exercise my right – freely, for the first time since 1995.