“The ruling power is always faced with the question, ‘In such and such circumstances, what would you do?’, whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions.”
Since November 3rd, 2020, over 75 million Americans understood the gravity of that statement more than ever from the author of 1984, George Orwell. Who is in power matters. Who you vote for matters. In fact, that you vote is equally if not of more importance. Unfortunately, there are still those that believe wholeheartedly, more so with the last election, that it does not matter if you vote at all. Whenever I have this conversation concerning the necessity or the value of voting, two scenarios often come to mind.
First, I think of the fabled story concerning a group of townsfolk preparing to protect their homes and families from opposing soldiers coming their way during the civil war. As the participants stand at the ready, guns and rifles in hand, a little old lady comes to the front and stands as well with a broom in her hand. When someone asked, “what do you think you’re going to do with that?” She replied, “Probably nothing; I just want them to know whose side I’m on.”
The other instance that comes to mind more frequently, is the story of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney.
These three civil rights workers’ tragic story is addressed in the 1988 film, “Mississippi Burning.” On June 21st, 1964, three members of C.O.R.E. (Congress Of Racial Equality) were in Mississippi to organize and register Black voters in lieu of voter suppression. On this day, Michael Schwerner, 24, Andrew Goodman, 20, and a local activist James Chaney, 22, had gathered to address the burning of the Mt. Zion Methodist church that Schwerner had arranged to use as a “Freedom School.” However, they were all unaware that this was undoubtedly a rouse to lure Schwerner, who had been targeted for a hit by Mississippi’s chapter of the Klu Klux Klan.
After alleged suspicion of setting the fire themselves, the three were pulled over and thrown in jail by Neshoba County Deputy Sherriff Cecil Price. After seven hours and not allowing them to make a phone call, they were finally released on bail. After dropping off his accompanying officer, Price chased down the civil rights workers and forced them into his patrol car, and along with two more vehicles filled with Klansmen, they drove the young men to an unmarked dirt road and executed them.
These lyrics to the recording “Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney” speak to the profound impact of the murders.
It was released nearly one year later, to the day, by folksinger Tom Paxton:
“The Pearl River was dragged, and two bodies were found,
But it was a blind alley for both men were brown.
So they all shrugged their shoulders and the search it went on,
For Goodman and Schwerner and Chaney.
Pull out the dead bodies from the ooze of the dam.
Take the bodies to Jackson all accordin’ to plan.
With the one broken body do the best that you can,
It’s the body of young James Chaney.
The nation was outraged and shocked through and through.
Call J. Edgar Hoover. He’ll know what to do.
For they’ve murdered two white men, and a colored boy too
Goodman and Schwerner and Chaney.”
For those that choose not to vote, I am sure you have your reasons. Perhaps you feel it makes no difference. Maybe, you feel it does not matter who is in the office. Or it may be that you are convinced that the system is rigged, anyway. I understand that you find some validity to that rationale… and you may be right to some degree. However, for me, there is no hesitation or question. Regardless of the time, Midterms, Presidential or local offices and propositions- I always vote, if for no other reason than the sacrifices made by those like Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney.