Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
In a recent interview, Hillary Clinton said a number of women have approached her and apologized for not voting in 2016. Clinton said she does not forgive them, nor anyone who waived their right to vote in the election. While President Trump has proven to be a major threat to all marginalized people in the United States, he has also proven that more of us need to take our democracy seriously.
In the 2016 election, about 55 percent of eligible citizens voted, nearly the lowest voter turnout in two decades. During the election there was talk, particularly on this campus, about Hillary Clinton being the lesser of two evils. There was talk about not voting, about writing in Harambe on the ballot, about not caring enough. Ultimately, though, any excuse to not vote in an election is absolute bullshit. This is a democracy and citizens are given the power to choose who leads us. It is unacceptable to waive that privilege, especially when so many of us don't have it.
In 2016, I was a permanent resident, not yet a citizen, and I had no voice in who would run this country for four years. As a queer woman of color, this was particularly painful. Most marginalized people knew Trump would not be good for our lives in this country, and to not have a say in the election was difficult to handle.
When you are an immigrant in the United States you are already marginalized. To make matters worse, most of us have no control over what happens in our government. Only 48 percent of immigrants are citizens, leaving us a limited capacity to participate in our government. Frankly, it is scary to have so little control over the policies those in power enact, especially when those policies affect you.
Your vote can make or break someone's life. It can decide whether the next four years will be a living hell for numerous Americans. And yet, even in an election with so many lives and rights at stake, voter turnout was nearly half. Sure, maybe Trump would have still won if voter turnout was 100 percent, but that is not the point. The point is that half of the eligible voters in this country don't take their privilege seriously.
Marginalized peoples who cannot vote must have a blind trust in those who can. A trust that they will not aid our continued oppression or that they will not squander their privilege. It is terrifying to place so much trust in American voters to protect immigration rights, trans-rights, DREAMers or rape victims, but that is all we can do.
As someone who finally has the right to vote, I understand the responsibility I have to use it. We cannot vote only when we love a candidate. We cannot vote only when we despise a candidate. We must vote always. Those who don't have this privilege need eligible voters to defend their interests.
Hillary Clinton doesn't forgive those who didn't vote in 2016, but it is unacceptable to abstain from any election. This isn't about candidates or personalities; it's about taking our democracy seriously.
If you have a vote, use it. So many never get the chance.
Liyanga de Silva is a sophomore English major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.