This post was written by My Tam Nguyen, friend of the Bus and all around awesome person:
Are you a good citizen?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself for the past three months. I was born in Vietnam, a country not known for its democratic process. The first eight years of my life were spent in a fishing village. I did not grow up with running water, running toilets, or electricity, much less a culture of democracy, voting, or civic engagement. I immigrated to the United States in 1992, and 20 years later, I’m finally a citizen.
I currently volunteer in the community and work in community engagement, you’d think that I would know how this political stuff works by now. Somehow my involvement always felt distanced from the foray of power and political play and process. Secretly, I had feared that although I was a green card holder, it could be taken away if I was too politically opinionated or involved. The moment I was sworn in three months ago on July 31, something changed–I gained a sense of duty along with the great privilege of being an American citizen. I am now a voter, can fully participate in the democratic process, and no longer have to operate with the fear of living at the fray.
It is of great relief to gain the freedoms of being an American, and it is also a great obligation to our community and country that I do my due diligence to be an informed voter. I am not taking this responsibility lightly.
This post, will be the beginning of a series on how I navigate this process. I hope that my civic adventures can help shed light on your own experience of voting a complex ballot this year!
My very first voter’s ballot arrived in the mail this week, and I’m a bit overwhelmed on how to approach this thing. I know it’s important, and there is so much in there that is relevant to our generation: legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, how state universities are able to spend their money. Along with the ballot, is a 135-page voter’s pamphlet full of pictures of smiling politicians and text describing how awesome they are and why they should get my vote. Am I really supposed to read this whole thing? OK, I tried. I was supposed to find answers in the pamphlet, and all I have are a bunch of questions:
Is there a CliffsNotes for the voter’s pamphlet? How in the world does someone make time to fully engage and make informed decisions with the mere two-week window between getting the pamphlet and turning in the ballot? Especially in between Facebooking, tweeting, Instagramming, and not to mention leading an awesome life and finding a way to pay the rent.
I started to ask around, and with some good ‘ole Googling, I present to you three steps I think are my pathway to becoming a well-informed citizen and voter:
1. Read & Research
2. Show Up & Question
3. Decide & Conquer
Next post…Reading and Researching. Stay tuned!