WHY I VOTE

By James H. Reza

I'm sure some of you remember what occurred just a couple of years ago, when smiling Iraqis who voted for the first time in their lives, held up an inked thumb signifying that they had cast their vote to elect new Iraqi leaders to govern their country.

To many Americans who take voting for granted, and sadly, don't even bother to vote, the smiling faces of those Iraqis in the news probably didn't move them one bit.

I'm one of those individuals who only if I were in my deathbed, (which, thank God hasn't happen yet) I would probably then abstain from voting. Even if an election were held to vote for a dogcatcher, I would go to my polling place to cast my vote. As an American, I owe it by going to vote to those who have paid with their lives to give me that right to choose our elected representatives.

I still have vivid memories of blacks being hosed by firemen, beaten with clubs by policemen, and their churches being bombed for wanting to have equal access to a voting booth. Many blacks, as well as white Americans who sided with their plight, were killed here in the United States no more than 50 years ago. Many young blacks, and white folks as well, can't believe that that actually happened here in our country.

For whatever reason, the good and the bad side of this nation's history is not taught anymore in our schools. Thus, many Americans are ignorant of what transpired in our country not to long ago. However, for individuals like myself, those troubling times are still deeply embedded in my mind.

I still remember when and for whom I cast my first vote in 1960. I also remember that I had to pay to vote in my state of Texas. It was then called a Poll Tax. White co-workers would joke with me and tell me, “Well James, now that you paid your Poll Tax, you are a bonafide Mexican American, instead of a plain old Mexican.”

A few months ago, I wrote an article for a Hispanic website titled “Asleep at the Wheel.” I wrote it in disgust of illegal immigrants protesting while carrying Mexican flags on our streets, a bill sponsored by the Senate, which was going to allow illegal immigrants to work in our country, and later be granted amnesty. However, the Congress proposed a tougher bill that would seal our borders before the Senate's bill version would even be considered.

The Congress' bill infuriated Hispanics, which prompted thousands, if not millions, (Hispanics: legal or otherwise) to parade on our country's streets demanding to adopt the Senate's version of the proposed immigration bill. What I found almost laughable was that politicians, and egged on by the media, were running scared that there would be a backlash by Hispanics at the voting booths if their demands to not grant amnesty to illegals were not met.

Here are some interesting statistics I found in my local library for politicians and American voters of all stripes to ponder:

  • There are an estimated 39 million Hispanics in our country, or, 13% of the overall U. S. population.
  • In the Presidential Election of 2004 only 6.1% of registered Hispanic voters took to the polls.
  • In the Presidential Election of 2000, only 5% of the estimated Hispanic voters went to let their voices be heard at the polls.

Now tell me my fellow Americans, with those dismal voting patterns, who were the politicians really afraid of? If you are thinking that it was special interest groups you're getting warm.

However, it is my firm belief that our politicians in Washington were more afraid of the repercussions by businesses who hire and depend on illegal immigrants for their cheap labor, and who also fund their political campaigns with their money, than from Hispanic voters.

In my article, “Asleep at the Wheel,” I pleaded with American voters of both major parties, particularly white Americans (who by in large vote in greater numbers), that in this upcoming November election cycle we would let our voices be heard at the ballot box where it really counts, instead of wasting our time parading on our country's streets if illegal immigration was not controlled.

Folks, having written many articles for magazines and newspapers for many years, I was literally stunned by the response I received from my article on the Internet from Americans from almost every state. I even received some from the Ukraine and one from Iceland.

For about 3 months, I got on average, about 10 to 15 telephones calls per day to congratulate me, and from folks who wanted me to give them permission to have the article printed on their local newspaper. Many callers also informed me that they were going to send my piece to their elected city, state, and representatives in Washington.

Shortly thereafter, the letters started to pour in. Almost all were supportive of my stance on illegal immigration; however, my encouragement to Americans to vote was where I received much praise. Indeed, there were some letters and calls who called me everything but a zebra. Thankfully, they were few in number.

Some of the most interested letters and calls I received were from politicians. Some asked for permission to use my article on their mailers to send to their constituents in their respective cities and states where they were running for office.

As the weeks went by, I soon noticed that the stack of mail grew to about 2-1/2 feet high. Proudly I must confess, some personal letters were from our most visible and distinguished politicians: President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Senator Bill Frisk, Senator Barbara Boxer, to name but just a few.

Though I did not send my article to these noteworthy politicians, I assume that the folks who read my article on the internet must have done so. Which in essence got the attention of the politicians aforementioned, to incite them to write me about their stance on illegal immigration.

Finally my fellow Americans, though money is the driving force in Washington, politicians are extremely aware that without votes from us, all the money in the world won't help them get elected.

VOTE!

That's our American Way and our obligation to those who died to give us that freedom!

James H. Reza