As a 23-year-old, I had a chance to vote in the 2016 election, but I didn’t. I was ignorant to politics and convinced my voice didn’t matter. I lived a somewhat average life and was convinced that whoever was in charge didn’t directly affect normal people like me.
Over the last four years, I started seeing more headlines and reading articles. I was becoming aware of what was happening in the country and saw normal people suffering for things that weren’t their fault. It brought to mind an old parable from the Nazi Germany era, written by Martin Niemoller.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
By not raising my voice I was complicit in what I viewed as the suffering of my peers and it became clear that eventually as an autistic person I might be subject to some amount of discrimination. For example, if someone were to attempt and repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act, that would directly impact me. The solution to this was simple: to stand up for my fellow Americans that are under fire and hope that when the time comes they would do the same for me. Voting is a simple way to put your name out there and say “this is what I believe in,” and try to push the country in the right direction.
I feel like the reason I didn’t vote is a common mentality to have. It feels weird to consider yourself an equally important person among the hundreds of millions of people in the country. It’s especially difficult when, as a caucasian male, I’m born with a certain level of privilege that others aren’t as fortunate to have. But nobody’s safe when the country is facing tyranny. If I were to fit even the exact description of someone the government wouldn’t dare hurt (think the Aryan race from Nazi Germany), it would make it even more crucial that I get my voice out there to not let others suffer because I won the genetic lottery.
That’s why I voted this last weekend, because I as a citizen of the United States of America am just as important as everyone else when it comes to my voice. I will stand for what I believe is right and I encourage everyone else to do the same.