The Right to Remain Silent

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Stop what you’re doing right now and look around you. Wherever you are, look at the two closest persons next to you. If you’re in your car, look at the driver in the lane to your right and left. If you’re at the grocery store, look at the shoppers in the check-out line in front and behind you. If you’re at work, look at the co-workers at the desk/booth/office across from you. Look at them. Look at them and realize that on November 4th, between the three of you, only ONE of you took the time and opportunity to vote. Only one of you decided it was important enough to have your say on the persons who make all the rules in your life. Rules on how you drive your car, how much you pay for food at the grocery store, how much you’re able to work and earn.  And two of you have the right to remain silent… And you took it.

On Tuesday, November 4th, 36% of the eligible voters in America voted in the General Elections this year.  These elections included governors, senators, congressmen, mayors, council members, school board and dog-catchers.  More importantly, they also included County Prosecutors and District Attorneys.  District Attorneys like Robert McCulloch.  Who, on November 4th, was re-elected as the Prosecuting Attorney for Saint Louis County.  Less than three months earlier, Robert McCulloch made the decision to not press charges on police officer, Darren Wilson who had fatally shot to death 18-year old, Michael Brown.  He did not read him his right to remain silent.  In the months since, the entire nation has watched and battled in conversations on race, policing, social justice and individual responsibilities and rights.  One thing we’ve hardly talked about is the responsibility of voting.  Robert McCulloch, who has been in office since 1991 and has won re-election six times.  The latest election, he won with 95.25 percent of the vote.  He ran unopposed.

Overall, the turnout in Missouri was 32.3%.  That’s 32.3% of the eligible voters in the state.  This doesn’t count the thousands more who are and were unregistered.  Nor does it account for the thousands who chose not to vote in down-ballot and uncontested races like McCulloch’s.  It should be noted, that a lot has transpired in and around the Ferguson, Missouri area over the last three months.  Many have complained and protested at the lack of accountability of law enforcement.  Well how are they suppose to be held accountable if we do not exercise our right to hold them accountable?  There are several problems with what happened in Missouri over the Summer, but how seriously can those problems be taken if those with grievances are not fully exercising their ability to address those grievances?  How seriously can we take them?

I actually started writing this on the day of the 2014 General Election to reflect on my personal conflicts with being… how should I say, apt to give opinions of the strongest certainty.  I notice that I share certain views and opinions and how others are bothered by them or otherwise reserved in their own feelings.  What I find MOST comically alarming is that the views that many find to be the most controversial, such as social and human rights, equal treatment under law, privacy, abortion and  civil liberties and freedoms, these are the VERY reasons that actually drive people to vote to begin with.  Yet, they have reservations to talk about these issues.  They shun away when they see them on Facebook or television.  They accuse persons, like myself, of purposely being inflammatory, inciting and derogatory for having a willingness to discuss topics they’d rather keep taboo.  But when these same persons go and vote, whenever they do fill out an entire ballot, they’re doing so based on how they feel on those very issues.  You vote for candidates that are pro-life.  You vote against candidates that are anti-immigration.  You vote for persons that are conscious of how you live and what you desire for yourself and family.  But to hear how others live and what they desire is disturbing on some levels?  However, ignoring it won’t make it go away.  We all live and work in the same space and we all are vying for the same resources.  At some time very soon, you are going to come face-to-face with which you want to ignore.  And, in your ignorance, you won’t be prepared on how to react.  And things happen, like Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown on a hot Summer day.

I’ll end with a quote from everybody’s favorite television series(or should be) The Wire.  Lieutenant Cedric Daniels is complaining about his lack of advancement within the Baltimore Police Department and the dire situation the city constantly finds itself in.  His wife Marla, encouraging him to take another path reminds him, “The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play.”  Well, evident by the deaths of Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, and Michael Brown, along with the hundreds more that are killed in sensational circumstances, it looks like we are playing to lose.  Especially when we do have the opportunity and ability in our grasp to do something and don’t take it.  We DON’T have the luxury of not voting.  It doesn’t simply make a difference, IT. IS. THE. DIFFERENCE.  It is the difference between pressing charges and presenting to a grand jury.  It is the difference between civil rights and tyranny of the majority.  It is the difference between irresponsibility and accountability.  And in many cases, it is the difference between life and death.  Like I said earlier, we all have a freedom of choice and the right to remain silent.  But know what you abdicate when you decide not to vote.  You may not like how the game is played, but despite what Marla Daniels said, you better believe that you cannot win if you do not play.  And two of the three persons next to you aren’t even in the game.

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