Discussion and disconnect: democracy from the sidelines


As I walked through Boston Common with my mother in September, a girl with a clipboard called out to us and asked if we were registered to vote. My mother explained that we were from the Cayman Islands, and the girl moved on. I remarked to her that even though I could not vote the results of the election would still affect me.
I wish I did not have to feel like such a bystander, especially in an election like this. Since arriving at Emerson, the election has dominated class discussion and my Twitter feed. I find myself live tweeting debates and checking polling data. But on Nov. 8, I will not be heading to the polling stations. It is frustrating to be a part of the conversation, but not to have a say in the outcome.
I will take this time to say that if you have the ability to vote, you should. Your vote matters not only to citizens of the United States, but to other people who have chosen to make this country their home, even temporarily. This election is also bigger than the United States, because the next president will have to make choices that will impact the world at large. A president needs to think about how the decisions they make will affect both the United States and the world at large.
The United States is one of the world’s top producer of carbon emissions and it is essential that the government has a sustainable energy plan. On Nov. 4, the Paris Agreement—a global commitment to limit the world’s temperature increase—launches. Donald Trump has said he would cancel the Paris Climate Agreement. His energy plan calls for an “energy revolution”, but calls for expanding natural gas and clean coal reserves. The United States ratifying the Paris Agreement is important; this country is a world leader and sets an example for the rest of the world.
The president should not make sweeping generalizations about immigrants and claim that because people come from a certain country or region it makes them more “dangerous”. Twisting the perception and actions of a certain group of people, such as Muslims, is not a strategic way to prevent terrorism, and it only adds fuel to the fire of terrorist groups. When voting you should consider who has the global community’s best interests in mind, not just your own.  
For the past few weeks, some news outlets have been using words like “landslide victory” for Clinton. But anything is still possible. Just this summer I thought the “European Union” on the top of my recently acquired British passport would not be at risk. The world and I were shocked by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in June. The long-term effects of this decision for both the United Kingdom and the European Union are unknown. Similarly, the next four years and beyond will be impacted by who becomes the next president of the United States. Maintaining stable foreign relations is an important part of being a leader and is necessary to minimize global conflicts. The president can set the tone for the country and this tone can influence decisions around the world.
When I heard the results regarding the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, I was angry. This was a decision that could potentially have a significant impact on my life as a citizen of a British territory, and I had to count on others to make it. I had a similar reaction to seeing the toxic and divisive nature of this election. It is frustrating to not be able to vote, but I have found other ways to combat helplessness. I read the news, express my opinions on social media, and have discussions with people who are able to vote. When I talk to other students and remind them I am unable to vote, they are surprised, but I feel like they are more appreciative of being able to vote. Yes, it was my choice to come live here, but I can leave if necessary. Your choice to vote, or not vote, has permanent consequences.
The experiences of having to be a bystander in two landmark decisions has solidified the importance of democracy for me. I am planning on carrying my interest and passion for politics into the upcoming election in the Cayman Islands. The United States is great, but there is always room for improvement. Its history of leading by example and being open to new ways of thinking is what sparks people from around the world to come here. I could have chosen to go to college anywhere in the world, but I chose to come here. I know the election cycle has been arduous, but these next few days are the most important. On Election Day, go out and vote for yourself, for people like me, and for the world.