I had written this article during the November 2014 election season. I had submitted it to a publication for print, however, by the time the editor was able to look at the revisions and such, it was no longer a timely piece. I’m still proud of it, and wanted to put it up here for you, my 3 subscribers, to read 🙂
“Would you like to register to vote?”
I was asked this twice. Once when I was 18-years old, after I passed my permit test. Next when I was 20-years-old, after I passed my driver’s test.
Both times, I felt a stern, judgmental look from the person behind the counter when I replied, “Umm, no thank you. Not right now.”
I would tell myself, “Oh, whatever. I am part of the apathetic generation anyway. I don’t really care about politics.”
I evade heated political debates and pressing questions from concerned citizens about my thoughts and opinions. When I share that I haven’t registered to vote, a typical response is “Don’t you care about your nation? Don’t you care about how elections affect you?
During the November election season, these questions and debates increased significantly. I was off with my apathetic-millennial swagger, dodging the many (often uninformed and generalized) discussions and arguments.
However, it was hard to tune out my many peers who were completely invested in the elections. I was surprised to see how many of my peers were passionate about politics. This is, perhaps, the age where people start to care and/or the age when they realize how elections impact their lives. With all this political frenzy around me, I began to catch myself paying close attention to what my peers/family/media were saying.
Students in the Latino Heritage Club at my university raising awareness about how Measure 88 could impact fellow peers.
My hippie, earth-loving friends fussing over the impact of GMO-labeling.
Political Science and Law professors spitting passionate (and pretentious) verses over the pros and cons of reelecting John Kitzharber.
Poor-production-value advertisements pleading for voters to give independents a fair shot.
I started to form opinions about certain measures and candidates. Heck, I began to form passionate opinions.
The truth was hard to deny – I wasn’t an apathetic millennial; I was a concerned citizen.
However, I still couldn’t bring myself to vote.
I am a natural-born, Asian-American citizen, born in Texas. However, I was uprooted from the southern soils and moved to India when I was 3-years old. For 10 years, I lived in the land of my ancestors, learned my mother-tongue, and formed the identity as “Indian.” My family moved to Portland, Ore. seven years ago, so my brother and I could pursue higher education.
I might be a natural-born citizen of the United States, but also, I am an immigrant.
The immigrant in me tells me that I am taking up space in someone else’s land. The immigrant in me tells me that I truly don’t belong here. The immigrant in me tells me that I don’t deserve to vote because my voice affects people who truly find “home” on American soil.
However, as an immigrant/citizen hybrid, I do not speak for all immigrants. In fact, many immigrants in my Indian community who have gained citizenship disagree with me, and would argue that it is in their best interest to be politically invested and vote. They understand what it is like to not have a voice in your community and what it feels like to go unnoticed.
I realize that I am young, and that I have a lot to learn about myself and of this world I live in. So I remain hopeful. I am hopeful that one day, I will find more clarity as to my immigrant self. I am hopeful that I will have a better understanding on an immigrant’s political responsibility to this country. I am hopeful that I will accept my identity as a full-citizen, one whose voice matters. Today, I am gracious guest, trying my best to keep my side of the world clean. Perhaps tomorrow, I will own my hybrid identity more, and give back to this country. For that day to come, I am hopeful.