Patriotism does not only means jealously guarding the flag and spewing nationalistic dogma on the campaign trail. It is not only about invoking the words of the founding fathers and singing the national anthem.

Patriotism is also rooted in the redeeming power to vote. You can’t profess your love for the country if you don’t believe in exercising the sacred right to select individuals who would represent your issues and interest. You can’t complain about all the things that are going wrong in the nation, and then refuse to vote because you erroneously believe it won’t make a difference. 

That is why Tuesday’s election is crucial. There is no better way to demonstrate the spirit of patriotism than the freedom to choose leaders who will protect your rights.

For blacks, voting should carry special significance given the history that produced the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the voter suppression tactics  still prevalent today. In Georgia, for example, where Stacey Abrams is running to become the first black governor of a Southern state with a sordid racial past, reports of voter disenfranchisement have sparked a national outcry. 

Abrams opponent Brian Kemp, the Georgia secretary of state, is being accused of voter suppression after his office reportedly canceled 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. He also put on hold 53,000 voter applications because of the state’s exact-match rules, which indicates that an application isn’t valid if it doesn’t match information on the driver license. Blacks account for about 70 percent of the applications on hold and 32 percent of the state population.

“For anybody here who has an ancestor who didn't have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote, wherever you are in this state, in this country, you are dishonoring your family," Oprah Winfrey said in Marietta, Georgia last week. “You are disrespecting and disregarding their legacy, their suffering and their dreams, when you don't vote.”

Winfrey couldn’t have said it any better.

But Winfrey, the media mogul added this: “I’m here today because of the men and because of the women who were lynched, who were humiliated, who were discriminated against, who were suppressed, who were repressed and oppressed. I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain.”

Her message rings true for Detroit, which is often notorious for dismal showing at the polls during elections.

Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the national NAACP, told me during a stop in Detroit last week that blacks should see voting as a currency to leverage for better life.

“In a democracy we say one’s vote is a currency because the vote would inform public policy,” Johnson said. “It is important for African-Americans to leverage their vote through the election of candidates who would positively impact our community.”

Johnson said those facing voter intimidation tactics should not be deterred from going to the polls Tuesday. 

“We predicted that voter suppression would increase,” Johnson said. “But the best remedy to voter suppression is to increase voter turnout. The more people vote the more we will be able to combat suppression.”

The current political climate exacerbated by the massacre of 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the pipe bombing campaigns against prominent Democrats including former President Barack Obama underscores why people should vote, Johnson said.

“The current political landscape has become more toxic and intolerant because the current president uses fear to drive political discourse,” Johnson said. “If we want civil discourse, we have to elect individuals that would hold the White House accountable.”

Voting should be viewed as a way to hold accountable those who use their positions to make fear a wedge issue.

“We have to remedy the problem by putting check and balances in place,” Johnson said of Tuesday’s election.

There have been many disinformation campaigns leading up to the election, all with the goal of confusing and misleading voters from making the conscientious decision to vote.

But after the propaganda that has been the hallmark of the midterm campaign, it is up to voters now to decide. It is up to those who believe that voting can change their lives to render the final verdict. No matter which party you are supporting, not voting isn’t an option.

And Detroiters should once and for all demonstrate that voting matters by showing up in droves on Election Day.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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