It is election day in America today so I wanted to blog about voting. I don't have any experience in Tanzania, but of course the experience we had with the Kenyan election in December 2007 will be with me forever (you'll recall that close to 2,000 people were murdered and 500,000 people were displaced from their homes in violence that erupted throughout the country following a corrupt election). So I will repost some of what I wrote in January 2008...because the importance of voting...the importance of exercising the right and responsibility and freedom to vote is on my mind.
The full blog is here. But the highlight about democracy is below:
Finally, a word on democracy. In Kenya, 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty and while they may not have food or water or shelter, they believed they had a vote. They didn't take it for granted and they cast it towards a leader they thought would improve their lives. When you take that away from people, when you tell them that their vote didn't matter, they are left with nothing. That is why young men in the slums are chanting "No Raila, No Peace!" and claiming that they are willing to die for this cause. Odinga may also be a corrupt politician and might have done nothing to help these people, but it is not a question of who is a better person or would be a better president. If the election was rigged, as it appears to have been, then Kenyans were robbed of their voice, their vote, and their hope. We hope to see the leaders do something to heal this country now. There are other countries with election drama right now besides Kenya, namely Georgia and Pakistan. I know Denmark's election has passed but my personal hope is that at home in America , when people are voting in upcoming primaries and in the 2008 election, they look around at what people in these other countries are fighting for and do not take their freedoms for granted.
Happy Election Day, to my fellow Americans. I hope you enjoy your voting experience, knowing that you will not be persecuted in any way...your family will not be threatened or intimidated or harmed...your church will not be burned...and your vote will be counted. It might not be a perfect system, I know, but millions of people the world over are envious of it.
God Bless America...get out the vote!