I was reading the newest issue of Rolling Stone the other day, and it made me want to vomit. Let me clarify though, I am an educated, undecided voter who isn’t quite sold on either Bush or Kerry. I read the magazine every issue, but my gag reflex was kicking in due to the pandering condescension handed to us by the entertainment media. Over five pages were solely devoted to rock stars mandating that I vote for John Kerry because he has all the answers. What those answers are however is clearly not relevant to the article as they were not included. In the effort to mobilize the inactive voters from the 18-25 crowds, the opposing parties have taken the assumption that we are ignorant and can be easily swayed by our allegiances to various celebrities.
I attended one of the Southern California stops from the Warped Tour this summer, which featured the prominent presence of voter registration booths from www.punkvoter.com. I absolutely believe that people should be free to express their political views, however almost every single band said something to the effect of, “Get off your a** and sign up over there to vote that silly cowboy out of office! Vote for Kerry, he’ll make things awesome again!” Really … why exactly should I vote for Kerry? What is he going to do and how is he going to do it? Equip your audience with some facts and knowledge of what their vote is actually going to accomplish.
In contrast to a band who led the crowd in a several minute chant of “F**k Bush!” before directing them to the voter booths, veteran punk rockers Bad Religion took five minutes out of their set to explain what their viewpoint was and why they believed in it. I can respect that. I cannot respect one uninformed person using a position of power to influence another uniformed person to use one of the most important tools of democracy without any thought. And for those of you who may think I am showing some partisan preference, I cannot condone statements such as, “America will succumb to terrorism if John Kerry is elected” (loosely paraphrased from V.P. Dick Cheney). All I’m saying is this: Don’t be stupid with your vote.
I admit it, I’ve gone into a voting booth and just chosen the name I recognized off of a long list of candidate because I felt that, “Voting for someone I’m not totally sure of is better than not voting at all.” In hindsight, I think that is the very mentality that is expected of us, and that is what we should combat. Otherwise, we are essentially saying that we are only voting because we know that we should, but we do not care enough to take full responsibility for the action of casting a vote that will shape our own futures in one fashion or another.
The best way to prove that you are an educated and responsible voter is to figure out which issues are important to you, and then research them as extensively as you can. Do you want know where the candidates stand on health care reform? Check multiple databases to compare any contradicting stances they have made in speeches, look up senators’ voting records, watch the debates and discuss them with friends, read publications with opposing viewpoints and decide who you agree with more and why. Read the information provided to you by the specific parties, and then double check their statements on the Internet or in your local newspapers/magazines to see if they line up with the facts provided by outside resources. Some excellent resources to check out are www.congress.org (it shows voting records and offers a forum for debate), www.rockthevote.org and www.msnbc.com. Get as many sources as possible, and compare their information to determine whom, if anyone, you agree with.
I don’t know yet whom I am going to vote for, but I can guarantee it will not be because a band was featured in RollingStone saying that any smart person will vote for Kerry without giving just cause. It will also not be because of a muckraking report out of Fox News. Show those who would question our decision making abilities that we are not so easily swayed as to vote for whomever a celebrity tells us to just because they say so. It’s not enough to merely vote, make your vote mean something to you by putting time and effort into it.
Jon Mann is a 23-year-old elementary music teacher and freelance musician living in Orange County. Although he loves modern music and the media, he encourages you not to check your brain at the door.