BRUCE BRANUM | THE GREENVILLE STANDARD
From the early beginnings of America, an idealistic governmental system of democracy “by the people, for the people” has been sought.
One of the most basic rights as a citizen “of age” in the United States of America is in the say so in what type of governmental systems that you will support or might endure. To vote is the legitimacy of your thought on the future of yourself and community. Our founding fathers realized that the great ideal of human nature is compassion. They and many others strove, bled and died to establish a system of government that guarantees rights to process inclusion, free speech and self defense. Too many have sacrificed for the liberty to condone such a citizen state government system based on compassion, liberty and inclusion for you to ever disenfranchise yourself from the system.
This week’s column focuses on inclusion, the basic right of citizens to have a say for the ultimate determination in societal governance we call the United States. We often think of history with romanticism and that there existed a greater civility amongst men, oft the truth was far from it. It is almost unimaginable to fathom the millions of people that have been disenfranchised (denied the right to vote) from the democratic process since the birth of the United States of America.
From the outset of the development of the US Constitution and following later with its amendments there have been debates and arguments and lives given throughout its history of who should be included in the right to vote. The first people recognized to vote were white men of property, later with the Civil War and reconstruction men of color were given credit. In 1920, women were acknowledged and to follow were all American Indians; the poor; the citizens of the District of Columbia; and finally those the age eighteen in 1971, by the old adage “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”
The constitution was deliberately written broad in concept to encompass and ensure the ideal of the basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by providing a system of government controlled by the people. We stand at a point in history our forefathers would say, “Job well done, but, be ever vigilant.” It is a sentiment that points to a dark history of the United States. Many have purposed to disenfranchise eligible citizens for their own personal gain, bigotry and prejudice. The gains and hates of the selfish have taken form in many manners of disenfranchisement including poll taxes, proof of property ownership, sex, race and literacy.
Give your mind to history and those who fought to preserve your rights of inclusion and why they felt “give me liberty or give me death” was worth all cost. Give your mind to compassion for those who have a hope for inclusion and to share the freedoms that you so enjoy and are guaranteed in a great thought called the United States of America. To follow is a brief listing of the amendments to the United States Constitution which have direct effect on your right to vote.
13th Abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, 1865.
14th Declared that all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. were citizens and that any state that denied or abridged the voting rights of males over the age of 21 would be subject to proportional reductions in its representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1868.
15th Forbade any state to deprive a citizen of his vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, 1870.
17th Gave voters rather than state legislatures the right to elect senators, 1913.
19th Gave women the right to vote, 1920.
23rd Granted citizens, of the District of Columbia, the right to vote in Presidential elections, 1961.
24th Prohibited imposition of poll taxes in federal elections, 1964.
26th Gave citizens the age of 18 the right to vote in federal elections, 1971.
Though our great nation has never proved perfect, I write to convince you that participation is the key to its betterment and only by that are we at the point of inclusion we find ourselves now. If you vote, you participate; if you participate, you have become involved; involvement of your ideas does matter. Self sustainment with respect for your fellow man is the fundamental theme that our founding fathers recognized and fought, bled and died to found a participation process that no other union of citizen states has ever achieved. I urge you to think of your inclusion in the process and what you so willingly would let others decide are your inalienable rights.
Don’t disenfranchise yourself. Vote!. Vote for the future, vote for what should be!