Apathy is the enemy
It’s election season and we need to pay attention.
Apathy is the enemy of democracy. It can allow unacceptable conditions to become accepted facts of life. By expressing our concerns through our actions as citizens and as voters, we decide which issues receive attention and if solutions serve the public’s interests. It’s our responsibility. It’s the central feature of a democratic government and society. It makes democracy work.
I was reminded of the power of citizen voices by The Race Beat, a 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff that documents the media’s role during the civil rights movement.
Through thousands of acts of individual bravery, ordinary citizens put themselves in harm’s way to assert their rights. They stood up to an entrenched way of life where brutality was used—and accepted as normal—to enforce segregation, disenfranchise voters, subvert justice, and exclude African Americans from economic and other opportunities. The media, previously disinterested in issues of race, could not ignore the explosive reaction from the white establishment that used violence to stop protests and spewed hatred to defend its actions.
By speaking up, these citizens, and the reporters who covered them, brought the reality of racial oppression into the light of day for the nation, the world, and Congress to see and to finally address. It upended a way of life that had been sanctioned for generations by the nation’s complicity of silence.
The civil rights movement inspires me and I hope it encourages anyone who doubts that they can affect the common good. I believe that by joining with others I can be part of making change, be it ever so small. That keeps me going. And I know it helps move things forward.
I believe hope propels individuals to push for a better world. I am troubled by what seems to be an effort by cynical power seekers to make citizens give up hope in their government and disengage from the political process by making government ineffective and defining it as the problem. Another discouraging development is the raft of legislation to suppress the vote and the aftermath of confusion about the rules—a cynical strategy to obstruct involvement. Power gained by limiting participation—either by promoting apathy or creating hurdles to voting—strikes fear in my heart. Any effort that tries to silence citizens undermines democracy.
Now is the time to connect, engage, pay attention, vote. We squander the common good if we sit out the process that enables us to define it.
Make sure you are registered to vote. Registration ends Oct. 9. Download a form from the Board of Elections website www.boe.cuyahogacounty.us, or sign up at your local library, Heights High or City Hall. If you have moved or changed your name since you last voted, reregister by Oct. 9. Decide how you want to vote and cast your ballot. Your choices are:
- Early vote in person at the Board of Elections (BOE) between Oct. 2 and Nov. 2. Cuyahoga County BOE is located at 2925 Euclid Ave. Hours and days vary. Check with the board before you go (216-443-3298).
- Vote absentee starting on Oct. 2. All registered voters are supposed to receive an absentee ballot application in the mail. If you do not receive one, contact the Board of Elections. Return the application to receive a ballot. Remember, once you apply for a ballot you can’t change your mind and vote in person.
- Vote on Nov. 6 at your assigned polling place. Voter identification has not changed in Ohio. A photo ID, utility bill or other document with your address is acceptable. You can also use the last four digits of your social security number.
Encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Susie Kaeser is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, former director of Reaching Heights, and serves on the national board of Parents for Public Schools.