Speaking up at the polls: Democracy’s resounding voice

By Caitlin Chciuk
Copy Editor

October 11, 2012

The upcoming presidential election has been sparking debates for months now. Campaign advertising has taken over. Conversations are now dominated by political discourse, often at the cost of respectful, polite discussions—a thing of the past, as more and more people push their opinions on others, forcing them to hear their candidate of choice get ripped apart.

I have waitressed in my hometown diner on and off for seven years. Though the diner’s been in business since the early 1980s, we only recently put in a TV. I was initially wary of it, mostly because I feared that people wouldn’t make pleasant conversation anymore. However, the opposite has happened. The TV provokes heated debates between customers.

My boss is openly conservative, so the majority of the time the TV is tuned to Fox News. Nearly every time President Obama is shown, someone—whether it be my boss or a customer—has something snide to say about our president. Usually I just ignore the remarks, and go about my job. However, sometimes I’m pulled into the conversation.

Recently, I was working when a political “discussion” started between my boss and two men sitting at the counter. As usual, this discourse was chock-full of Obama-bashing. There was the typical griping over his nationality, and how he’s driving this country into the ground. I remained tight-lipped as I leaned over the sink, trying to ignore them. Eventually, one of their comments set me off. I started to tell one of the men that I disagreed, but as soon as I began to speak, he cut me off and told me I was wrong.

For some reason, I respectfully let him say what he wanted, and then walked to the other end of the counter, red-faced and trying not to cry. No one in the diner defended me. I couldn’t even stand up for myself because I was so shocked. This man had no right to silence me.

Unfortunately, this happens fairly often. Many times it seems I’m the only democrat in a diner full of republicans. Even though some of the comments I hear make me want to flip tables, I nearly always keep my opinion to myself because I hate stirring the pot. While I understand that many of the older male customers have old-fashioned ideas, it upsets me that I do not get the same respect that I give them. It’s not right that my opinions aren’t considered or heard when everyone else’s are discussed openly.

Little do these men know, I have already voted (thank you, absentee ballots). What they say cannot sway my vote. However, I fear that, regardless of the election’s outcome, my opinion will always be silenced when I’m in the confines of that diner.

Political debate is everywhere right now, and for many of us, talking about our views isn’t always comfortable. A lot of what I hear at the diner is contrary to my beliefs, and although my voice is sometimes silenced, I will never stop trying to get my point across in a respectful way.

In the meantime, I’m so grateful to be able to voice my opinion—loud and clear—through my ballot.

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