Warning: This post contains soapbox rhetoric. Please abstain from reading if you will be insulted by concepts such as freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equal rights, etc. Thank you –
Burlesque is Freedom…
So is voting.
So, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this month. Sure, I had lots of ideas, but none of them was really ready to pour out of my fingers onto the page. And then I got a text message from one of my coworkers saying that ANOTHER one of my coworkers was not voting. Actually, more than one. Not voting? Craziness! Now, I feel that not voting is craziness in a normal environment, but as someone who works for a quasi-governmental agency (day job) I feel it is essential for me to vote. While we are a “non-partisan” agency, we are impacted daily by the decisions of the elected individuals, the rules they create, the regulations they disintegrate, and so very much more. I feel my job provides a crucial protection to the people of the United States. How could someone who works for my agency think that voting – their vote, their say, their VOICE – is not important? Every day I go to work I do important things, but voting is even more important than the things I do in my job because it is my right and my responsibility alone. People have worked hard to gain the vote. From the revolution (no taxation without representation); to the birth of the U.S.A. as a nation; to the creation of the constitution; to the drafting and approval of the bill of rights; to the fifteenth amendment prohibiting the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude; to the nineteenth amendment prohibiting the denial of the right to vote based on sex.
Freedom. The freedom to vote is so important. And it is directly linked to our impact on society. Women worked and strived and risked their lives to get the vote. People have died trying to register blacks to vote in the south. People have been maimed, tortured, killed for voting or for trying to vote. People have fought wars and have died to gain a vote of representation! Do not take this amazing freedom and ability to vote for granted. Your failure to vote, to express your opinion, could result in great harm to yourself and others. What would happen if we all decided our vote was not important and stopped voting? Would we leave the decisions to the rich elite as it was originally designed to be? How lop-sided would our already crazy country look like then? And what else would we lose? Undoubtedly our own self-respect… at least eventually.
Maybe people aren’t comfortable voting. Maybe they don’t trust their judgment or politics makes them uncomfortable. Get over it. A lot of people aren’t crazy about going to the dentist, but you do it because it is part of being an adult. Luckily, I grew up in a household where politics were discussed (even in front of the children) and my opinions were actually heard. As a child I watched the news and read the paper, listened to my parents and other people talking about a topic. I had opinions. While I am not an advocate of lowering the voting age, I know children who are more knowledgeable about politics and ballot propositions than adults I know. If you are not certain about a ballot proposition, you can abstain from that one. Some of them are pretty confusing and the voter information isn’t always clear or succinct. But I always make the effort to understand them (and if I can’t say I am a proponent for something, I am probably going to vote “no.”)
I discuss politics with Mr. Velvet, but I would never let him vote for me. I respect his opinions, most of the time we agree, but sometimes we don’t. It is my vote – not anyone else’s.
Growing up in California I took a lot of things about voting for granted. Such as getting my voter guide in the mail with my polling place. It even showed pictures of how the ballot looked, very helpful as it turned out. When I moved to Louisiana for six years of my life I realized how spoiled I was. We got no voter guide in the mail. We got no information on polling location in the mail. I had to buy a paper to find out my polling place and figure out what we were even voting on. While the privileged often don’t think about the extra burden to others, finding and obtaining a paper or otherwise getting the basic information on where to vote was yet another hurdle to overcome. In Louisiana, I saw many people turned away if they failed to bring their voter registration card, unless they were older, white, and male. In those cases I saw people vote who had no identification with them at all. And then there were the voting machines. There were signs next to the levers that you pushed to show your vote. At the end you hit the lever to open the curtain and everything reset. Being suspicious-minded I had all sorts of horrid thoughts about those voting machines: 1) The candidates could be reversed – I had no way to tell what order they should be in. 2) The votes were going nowhere because nothing was actually recorded when I opened the curtain, or 3) the votes were recorded in the machine, but no one ever came to collect the results from that machine. Compared to the transparent process in California, Louisiana seemed to be rife with corruption, but I voted anyway.
Which brings me to another topic – Bombshell Betty asked me recently for conversation because she already knew my opinion – how I felt about posting political information on my Facebook page. You may be my Facebook friend and you already may know this, but I do. I am political. I am a human, a woman, before a burlesque performer. My thoughts, my politics, my person, my on-stage persona all inform my burlesque performing. They inform my acts. Even the acts that are fairly innocuous are informed by the fact that I have studied women’s history (and the history of burlesque), that I believe passionately in women’s rights, that I have thoughts and feelings and beliefs about the body and our rights to our body and about showing that body and about expressing things through our body. I do not silence my thoughts and opinions on stage. Why should I limit myself to my physicality? I stopped any pretense of being a silent performer when I started MCing. If I can have a voice in a theatre, I can (and, in my opinion, should) have a voice outside the theatre.
And Red Velvet has people who will listen. If I can say something that will cause one person to stop and think about a different perspective, then I have been successful. At the end of the discussion, they don’t even have to agree with me. But the process of uniting people and getting them to converse intelligently about a topic can create the opportunities and can lead to amazing things like understanding, compassion, and maybe even negotiation and compromise. We can’t do that without a conversation.
Now, that sounds all nice and pretty. We know the reality can be anything but that. I have had a lot of political conversations on my Facebook page and then I have people I unfriend or at least delete their posts. I delete conversations or unfriend people that don’t follow my rules – I have a few. I unfriend people who don’t want a conversation but want to call me stupid, call me names, etc. for expressing my opinion. That is not a conversation, that is bullying and I don’t put up with that. Particularly because I tend to see it more expressed towards political opinions of women than I do political opinions of men – even though those political opinions may be the same. Don’t park your articles and opinions on my Facebook page without engaging in conversation. If I post an article and someone else just posts an article saying awful things disagreeing with my article, their post will be deleted. I agree with freedom of speech. Just go do it on your Facebook page. You can put up signs representing your political candidates on the lawn of your house all you want. Just don’t put them on my lawn. Same with my Facebook page. If you want to have a conversation on actual issues, I am happy to engage. I am happy to discuss. I don’t know everything and I may learn something. You may also learn something. If you don’t want to learn something, then don’t engage. Freedom of speech is your right to talk, it is not a right to repress the thoughts, words, and opinions of other people.
I may not respect your opinion, but I respect your right to have an opinion. I may think you are an idiot. I won’t say that, but I will argue my point. (I managed to work in Louisiana for six years without calling anyone an idiot to their face even though I had people tell me that women in the work force resulted in a worse standard of living for everyone, that they couldn’t deal with women in the workplace and to get out of their office, and telling me that they could at least be honest and admit that they were racist and sexist.) I think freedom of speech is important. But even that has limits. Inciting violence against others is not protected, and yet I see it happen all the time and then people touting that it is “freedom of speech.” People don’t understand that these rights were created to protect everyone – not to protect the few and the privileged.
Okay. I will get off my soapbox now. But, please, if you are registered – go vote. If you are not registered, go register so you can vote in the next election. Don’t have an opinion on your vote? Please feel free to ask me – I am more than happy to give you my opinions… Just go, vote. Exercise your freedoms or you may lose them.
And let’s give thanks – because right now, we still have those freedoms. Let’s hope they continue.