Voting on behalf of us who can't

I have voted once in my life.

I voted once because that was the only chance I was ever given.

In 2005, the first and only elections were held in Palestine. The main contenders were Mohamed Abbas and Mustafa Bargouthi. There were others of course, one of whom, I kid you not, was running via the radio and TV because he was under house arrest by the Israeli government. When I saw his ads, I remember thinking that we deserved better than a President who cannot leave his house.

I remember the air smelling of pamphlets and ink, and walking in to a high school building a little bit before sunset, on January 9th, 2005. A subtle breeze waved the hundreds of Palestinian flags covering the city and hovering above the hundreds of people crowding outside polling stations. The elections, primarily, were about the idea that we had a country and the ability to make a decision about our future. The moment I picked a name on the ballot and dropped it in the box I felt like I had a country, and that the trauma and loss was worth something. The rest of the night wasn’t as hopeful, and the president elected on that night is still holding on to his position at the expense of freedom and justice.

I have never trusted a government or believed that people in power cared about the citizens they were supposed to serve.  As a child, I imagined presidents and ministers as bloated figures who ate the meat of their people, and thrived on the prospect of everyone, collectively, giving up on their rights. What’s saddest of all is that this belief never bothered me. I have normalized injustice and oppression so deeply because I grew up in places where it was criminal to ask questions, let alone oppose.

Then, suddenly, Donald Trump was elected as president of the United States of America, a little over a year from when I moved back to New York City. I was so confused by people’s grief because governments were always occupied by people like him, and then I realized that there are people in this world who expect their governments to serve them, respect them, and better their future, and if a government failed to do so, there are people in this world who can sue it!

The aftermath of Trump’s election gave me hope, because for the first time in my life I witnessed a population that was furious about an entity that threatened their ideals. People that flooded the streets to stand up for one another. Women who wore hats that looked like vaginas. Children that carried signs that said no to oppression, no to hatred, no to silence.  For two years, I’ve been watching people continue to say no, continue to not give up.

For people like me, and there are more of us that anyone wants to believe, the thirst for freedom is palpable. We spend the majority of our lives smiling at police officers to avoid being harassed, hiding from guns, pretending to respect figures that we despise, and trying to escape.

It is a blessing to believe in one’s worth as a citizen and have faith that with enough votes and participation a dark reality can be replaced for a lighter one, because in so many corners of this world a vote means very little in a destiny predetermined by bullies and where no saying no can cost you your life.

Please vote because it is a gift to have a choice like that. Please vote for me and for people like me who have never been heard. Please vote for you and the people that believe that this country is for everyone. Please vote because you were fortunate enough to be born in a place where you can say no to hate and fear. Please vote because the behavior of this country in this rest of the world depends on you. Please vote for us who can’t.

May your country always love you, house you, claim you, and represent you.




Tala Abu RahmehComment