Fall 2016: “Why Bother to Vote?” Powerful Voice Winner Tyler Kim

Read Tyler's essay, "With Great Asians Comes Great Responsibility," about how some of the same people who urge us to vote are the same people who neglect what should be their real responsibility—caring about people on the margins.

Tyler Kim, a student of Janet DePasquale at Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “5 Reasons to Vote Even When You Hate Everything on the Ballot.”

In this article, journalist and millennial Yessenia Funes shares her opinion on why it’s important to vote—even if you hate everything on the ballot. Funes points out what’s at stake, especially for those groups who vote the least, and options if you are dissatisfied with the slate of candidates.

Writing Prompt: Is not voting a responsible option in a presidential election? Weigh in with your argument.

NOTE: This essay was written before the Nov. 8 election. Please read Tyler’s post-election thoughts at the end of his essay.

With Great Asians Comes Great Responsibility

About two months ago my mother asked me who I would vote for in the 2016 election; I told her I just wouldn’t vote. This response disappointed her. When I told her this, I had my reasons for my answer, but I didn’t want to trap myself in a conversation about politics with my mother. I had better things to do. But now, two months later, I read an article called “5 Reasons to Vote Even When You Hate Everything on the Ballot,” by Yessenia Funes, which gave me a perfect chance to show that I wasn’t being cowardly or passive, but trying to bring attention to the real responsibility of American citizens.

Everyone is talking about how this is one of the most influential elections in American history, but now due to all the pointless drama, it’s just another bad reality TV show. And just like any bad reality TV show, fanatics of the show seem to have even less common sense than the actors, and end up treating the election as if Kim and Kanye were getting a divorce. These bandwagoners have to turn toward social media for a purpose in life, and that’s where the problem is. Media doesn’t focus on what everyone needs; it only cares about the hollow shells that can’t form their own opinions because they are the people with money and power.

The upper class doesn’t care about the rest of society, which means the media doesn’t either since the rest of society doesn’t have money. When the media is set up to pander to the strong, the real issues of life, such as moral obligations towards immigrants that come here in search of a better life, are hidden under a tarp. Clearly the upper class has never heard Uncle Ben’s famous last words to Peter Parker, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” The upper class possesses great power, but they fail their true responsibility— creating a unified society that cares about what lies and who lives on the margins. This might be a harsh assessment of the advocates for voting, so let’s see if Funes can convince me otherwise.

In her article, “5 Reasons to Vote Even When You Hate Everything on the Ballot,” Funes argues that we should vote because our opinions matter. But that’s not always true. Let’s take a look at how democracy works in America. The overarching idea of democracy is consent of the governed. This basically translates to majority rule. This means that if I voted and the candidate I voted for lost, then my opinion actually didn’t matter. My voice was snuffed out by the majority. But when a presidential candidate wins the electoral vote, yet loses the popular vote—which has only happened four times in American history— “democracy” throws away the majority’s preference.

That’s the society we live in. A world where greed and money overpower the honest and the weak. Look at all the poor neighborhoods full of Black families. Look at all the Syrian refugees that need our help. And look at me—a scrawny Korean-American nerd. All of these people on the margins, waking up every morning, feeling choked by the oppressors who thrive off of this flawed society. The people who nag me for not wanting to vote—the media, the overly political girl at school, and even sometimes parents. Sure, they may acknowledge that people suffer, but they will never truly understand it.

They will never understand what it’s like to be put to a higher standard, even when failure is inevitable. They will never understand what it’s like to be looked at as Asian in white society, and white in Asian society. They will never understand what it’s like walking into a school full of blonde white girls who wear an anagram on their overly priced jacket with their yoga pants and Uggs, who honestly all look the same, and who will never understand who I am because they can’t see anything past their safe little world. What they see are small issues like voting, because, like I said, they need the media for a sense of meaning, and media doesn’t show them what my meaning in life looks like.

When people say that it’s a responsibility to vote, they are neglecting the real responsibilities they have—and that’s fixing this damaged society we live in. If you asked me how we could fix our society, my answer would honestly be “we can’t.” Sure, maybe things like a segregated world or misogynistic ideologies can change, but evils such as bigotry will never die. Even though that’s the hard truth, it doesn’t mean that nothing should be done.

One day this fall, I went to an interminority dialogue/performance/poetry slam at an art gallery located in downtown St. Louis. The event was intended to create a bond between Black and Asian communities, since they don’t interact much. The sound of Jason Chu and Corey Black’s lyrics and verses echoed throughout the small building. They pierced my ears and made their way into my mind. Listening to those performances gave me a sense of power, even more powerful than if the candidate I voted for won the election. Even though I knew that outside of that art gallery racism still continued to blight the world we live in, even though I knew the very next morning I would have to go to school and look at the very thing I hate most in the eyes, and yes, even though I knew, as the very talented rapper, Jason Chu put it: “bad men win, and even good men die,” I still felt strong that night. It made me feel like I could just snap my fingers, and, in an instance, Meacham Park wouldn’t be seen as “the bad part of Kirkwood.” Michael Brown would still be eating dinner with his family. And my feeling of loneliness at school would be gone.

The part of Jason Chu’s verse that I quoted might sound bleak, but when I hear the rest of it—“but one small spark can light the whole night, so one small soul can fight the good fight”—I can tell he felt the same strength I did. So sure Funes, if you want to wait in line at the polls go ahead, but this small spark is going to take the fight elsewhere.

Postscript: The results of the election did not change my mind at all. When people went to vote that night they didn’t change anything about the country. As I previously said in my essay, people already had a skewed perspective on the election (my Kim and Kanye analogy). Nothing is going to change with Trump being president, and as comedian Bill Burr once said in an interview with Conan O’Brien “If you liked Obama at all, did he call you in the last eight years? Did he ever put a sandwich on your table? You do that, you’re going to keep doing that, you’re going to be fine.” While this response is super funny, it also carries a lot of truth. Trump becoming president won’t do anything for the issues I raised in my essay, and it’d be the same if Hillary won as well.

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