Democracy Sandwich

Greetings, unfeeling network of wires! It’s been a long time since you’ve last carried my voice. For all those of you out in the darkness reading this on RSS feeds or on web browsers, welcome; I’m going to try this again from the top, updating regularly.

There’s a bunch to write – the world has changed around me since I was in China. Now I’m ensconced in another People’s Republic: the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Cambridge! I’m working hand-to-mouth, planning for the future, and laying long schemes that will come to fruition over the next few years. But for the moment, that’s not what I’ve come to mention.

A few friends of mine have remained in China as a rear-guard, working for various media outlets, or for non-profits, and have started a blog on American democracy – “We Are Sandwich,” which is a pun on the Chinese for “We are three people’s knowledge,” which is descriptive ‘coz there are three of them, you see. Except now there are four, as I added my $0.02 to the mix last election day, with a quick description of my experience voting – you know, that thing we all did last Tuesday?

Link, for those of you who understand Chinese:

And a quick, inexpert translation for those of you who don’t:

This morning, a few minutes shy of seven o’clock, exhausted to death, I opened my eyes and got out of bed. Half dead, half alive, I put on my clothes, staggered downstairs, hit the streets; my girlfriend and I went to vote. In America every down has a few places you can go to vote, and everybody in the town belongs to one. My girlfriends’ and my poling place is close to the house, just 2 minutes’ walk away.

Our polling place opens at seven and stays open until eight at night, so we figured if we got there at seven the line shouldn’t be more than 5 minutes long, but when we got there we discovered that there were already many hundred people waiting! Their line circled the polling place many times; we had to wait for 40 minutes or so to vote.

On the surface this was a pretty frustrating situation, but as I waited in line I was overcome with a pleasant feeling. There were so many people in line, all waiting to participate in the election. No matter what policies or politicians they supported, no matter who they were voting for, they had come to this polling place to become a part of the democratic process. That’s what hit me.

The vote is the foundation of American government; without it, there is no America. If you took a time machine, like in Dr. Who, back to the past and asked the Founding Fathers if they wanted to found a democratic country, they probably wouldn’t agree with you; when they wrote the Constitution, the Founding Fathers thought that if a large country was too democratic, it would necessarily become chaotic. So, they created a “Representative Republic”: every two years, America would hold an election, selecting which politicians should represent the common people. This system obviously relies on the free franchise; if no one goes to vote, then the system loses its old democratic character.

In the last 20 years or so, American youth don’t seem to have paid much attention to voting. The youth vote never got close to fifty percent. This time around, a lot of political scientists have been saying that the youth vote will break old national records. So, seeing so many citizens waiting in line so early in the morning to vote made a huge impression on me.

After we voted, my girlfriend and I went to a coffee shop to buy breakfast, and then headed to work.

The Chinese readers seem to have appreciated the essay, so I’m going to be writing there again in the future. I’ll try to post translations from the Chinese in this space in the future.

Keep on rocking.

Leave a Reply