The following was written by my girlfriend. I found my own voice in her writing, and so I offer it to you from us both
You really can’t know, until you’re on this side of things.
I had no idea. I grappled and prayed and thought, and made a decision. I made a decision about an act I will take, that will not directly affect anyone else. And now, every single day, I am inundated with messages about what’s wrong with me, or messages that make me invisible. Inundated, surrounded, immersed. I don’t seek it out, it just gets handed to me everywhere.
Some advocates and ads just say “Vote.” Fine. That’s your right to say to me. I’m gonna answer “No.” End of exchange. That’s about 5% of the conversations.
The rest are earnest, arrogant, condescending, angry faces. “If you’re concerned about your environment, you’ll do this.” “Get off the couch, you lazy bum, and do this.” “If you don’t do this, you’ve got no right to complain about anything.” People I know and people I don’t know. Everywhere, everywhere. Over and over and over and over and over again, in every direction.
Have you ever felt like the only person experiencing something? Have you ever felt invisible? There is nothing in the wider world that exists outside the voting juggernaut. There’s nowhere casual to go that gives me peers to hang out with. There’s nothing to combat the feelings that I am hated, that I am a threat.
It’s a bit like it was when I first became a vegetarian, though the scale is much more enormous this time. Meat eaters would (and still sometimes do) engage me viciously; they would argue and try to debate with me. I’ve never tried to convert anybody to vegetarianism. Your diet is not my business. I don’t understand why I’m such a threat to you, just making my own decisions. I do not see why there can’t be room just to be this thing, quietly.
Oh, but I’m not one of those vegetarians? I’m not one of those kind of nonvoters? I’m not one of those kind of Christians? Oh, well then, that doesn’t make me feel less lonely. Where is the space for me, then? Will you actually try to understand me, and others like me? Will you make space for the ones that are different, or will you negate us? Will you even fully imagine our existence, so that there’s some small place for us in the conversation? Or will you continue to lump groups together when it’s convenient for you?
There is no public venue where legitimate reasons not to vote are given any space. None. This is part of my anger, as it makes them invisible, even to those who don’t realize they’re struggling to find them. Every time nonvoters are so casually characterized as lazy, or ignorant, or selfish, or misinformed, or in need of help, one of our core freedoms is being taken away.
Have you ever listened, really listened to the arguments given on most voting PSAs? They sound like evangelists. They do not work from logic, they work from emotion. They make no room for you, the audience, to disagree. They assume you’re either one of them, or that you need their help. They make assumptions about you, about your character and attitudes and wellbeing. They bully. It may not be clear, since they’re talking about being voters, and you likely are one. But the next time one comes on, pretend they’re asking you to convert to Christianity, or some other group foreign to you.
Now I’m reminded of being in another minority… growing up queer in a family where queer didn’t exist. It’s really quite similar in a lot of ways.