Who do you believe has the right to vote? Should only the college-educated be allowed a voter’s identification card? Do you believe that women have the right to vote? What about an illiterate herdsman in the Sudan? Is this a universal right or one which is tailored within national borders?
Let me break it down for you further with a statement of belief:
I believe that all adult citizens have the right to vote. This right should be extended to all socioeconomic levels, all clergy, and members of the military. The aforementioned are the simple categories. This right belongs to the mentally-capable disabled. Dr. Stephen Hawking can cast a vote. Individuals with developmental delays who are capable of self care can also contribute their voice to political process.
A few months ago, I traveled to Washington, D.C. I observed a young woman using the mass transit system who sported an identification badge showing her status as a federal branch employee. She obviously had the notable physical characteristics associated with Down’s Syndrome. (My nation does not hesitate to hire disabled Americans). Her job involved wheeling a cart along delivering inter-office mail. She spoke of a stable work history spanning several years. Her vocabulary skills were simple, and lacking in complexity. Yet she answered my questions without hesitation. Yes, she lived at home. She would always need companionship to help her make the complex choices in life. But there she sat, chatting with me as she looked at her iPad. Can this young lady dream about a pay raise and attach loyalty to a political candidate? You betcha. Does she have the right to vote? I believe that she does because voting is not qualified by education nor high intellectual achievement. It is based on the premise of a God-ordained free will. And because we have free will our vote is more about issues of conscience than any other factor.
In America we have continuously expanded the line of demarcation for voting rights. But within the legally recognized parameters allowed the citizenry there remain subtle pockets of bias against certain citizens. The bias can be part of the emotional architecture installed by our parents at a very young age. As the old saying goes, parents know how to push our buttons because they installed them. And after with the installation of the good, the bad and the ugly, we eventually find ourselves catapulted into adulthood. Yet not all catapult onto this stage of freedom with a true ability to pursue a life based on logic. Sadly, some of the most educated can be the most illogically arrogant regarding the common man. Take for example the posture of April Ponnuru (a prior Jeb Bush policy advisor). She finds presidential candidate Donald Trump’s reach into the Republican Party base disturbing. Why is she disturbed? Let me quote her:
“Look this idea that Trumpism might be a new working class politics… It appeals specifically to a subset of white people. It’s a dead end….” (1)
Subset of (working class) white people? That subset would include my Cherokee grandmother, who had a third grade education. It includes my mother who only completed one year of college. And it includes 2/3 of my siblings who cannot lay claim to any university training. They are working class men and I have never imagined myself better than them.
The tremendous and continuous displays of arrogance by the Republican Party machinery against working class Americans smacks of elitism. “They” know what is best for the blue collar worker. Surely, the man working twelve hour shifts in a coal mine has no real idea of what is best for his own clan. Only those who manage a stage as opposed to those who pull the weeds from the soil are capable of casting an intelligent vote. The rest of us can just take a snooze.
This unmitigated arrogance has an unfortunate corollary within Arab culture. Your concept of “noble lineage” continues to erode the soil of democracy from the waters of the shark known as Saudi Arabia to the waters of the guppies, known as the Gulf States. You can delve into this concept in scholarly fashion by purchasing “Al-Ahkam As-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance) by Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi. Take a pleasant evening and read Chapter 8 (The Niqabah Tribunal for those of Noble Lineage). Sure, I understand what Prophet Muhammad said, “Know your genealogies, and you will bind together your bonds of kinship….” Our bloodline bonds are important for the survival of our generations. But our bloodlines are not meant to become dynastic. And bloodlines were never meant to be used as political vehicle to deny the vote to the common man. Whether it is the House of Saud or the Republican National Convention, I consider these lines of thought illogical.
There are many times when I engage what I call the test of the reasonable man. What would a reasonable man do if confronted with the same dilemma I am facing? Can that reasonable man be the plumber who just fixed my toilet? Can I run my thoughts by him and ask for an opinion? Of course! Might that “reasonable man” be the slightly built female housekeeper pushing her mop along the floors in my workplace? Might she just offer up that one small sentence of logic or encouragement that aids my own decision? I have certainly used the housekeeper in my problem-solving process. What about the man on the bicycle with worn sandals pedaling along on a street in Lahore? Is he just some invisible animal who needs to make way for your chauffeured vehicle? Or might he be the very man that you ask how to approach your wild daughter regarding her even wilder boyfriend? Who is the reasonable man?
Who has the right to vote? All have the right to vote. Casting a vote is not about education. It is an act of conscience and the right to a small voice in the future of a nation is the right of all.