Be An Informed, Educated Voter

Be An Informed, Educated Voter

We have officially entered the year of the next Presidential election in the United States. While I tend to keep my political thoughts to myself or only share with a small group of friends/colleagues, I feel it’s important to share some information with my friends, family, and readers.

If you aren’t sure of who you will vote for, that’s just fine – especially considering the field of candidates has yet to be narrowed down for the actual election later this year. If you’d like to get a head start and begin your research now, go for it. I highly recommend two websites to help you become a more informed voter: ISideWith.com and FactCheck.org

ISideWith.com is a wonderful resource, especially if you are very unsure of where you stand or which party/candidate you want to support. Don’t be sucked in by the evils of media; rather, take your time and answer the questions on this website. Their tagline – “How do your beliefs align with the potential candidates?” This is important… it focuses on YOUR beliefs.

My advice: be honest and answer the extra questions. It may take a little while, but it’s worth it. The last time I filled it out, I think it took about 30 minutes to complete with me answering each question in detail. Always select the position on the scale of if that issue is more or less important to you, and definitely expand the “Other Stances” option on each question to get more specific. Sometimes, a simple yes or no doesn’t suffice on the issues at hand. Here’s an example question:

ISideWith Sample Question

Dissecting the features, there is a spot for the user to select how important that issue is to them. It’s a scale of Less to More, with Somewhat being the middle of the road. Next to the actual question, there’s a button for you to click to learn more about the issue, in case things aren’t immediately clear. That brief description will sometimes even offer why some are against and why others are for the particular issue. Below the Yes or No option, there’s another for Other Stances. Once you click that, more options appear, allowing you to get more specific about your personal belief on the issue. If you click Add your own stance you will be given a text box for you to type how you really feel. Note that your response in that area is added to the database and other users can see it when they browse through the website.

When you finish the quiz, you’ll be given a breakdown of who you side with, which party fits your views, and a ton of other features including how others in your location/demographic feel about the issues.

When I started the quiz, I thought (without a doubt) I’d be aligned with a certain candidate and party. At the end of the quiz, I was surprised to see my top candidate and party. Reading through my answers, it made a lot of sense. This is how we should begin making our voting decisions. Not only will you solidify your convictions, you’ll be able to find the person who aligns the most with your personal views. Then, you can make the decision if that person is indeed the best person to run our great nation. Keep going back too throughout the year to see if anything changes, especially when the candidates have been narrowed down. I will be visiting this site often over the next several months to ensure I vote with intelligence come November.

FactCheck.org is a fantastic resource that helps us cut out all the crap said in the heat of the moment or in an effort to earn a vote. I could give endless examples with this, but just consider the recent debates and statements some candidates are saying about each other. It’s a fact – some will say and do whatever it takes to get you to be on their side, regardless if it’s true or false. This unfortunately leaves it up to us to do more research to verify what is true or not. In the end, it at least makes us more informed.

I love this site simply because it is dedicated to presenting the facts and no party/candidate is safe. You can trust if something is said in error, this site will be quick to correct the inaccuracies and provide detailed information on the specific topic or issue. Their mission is to increase public knowledge through journalistic and scholarly principles. This site makes it easy for a citizen to find the truth among the mess that is modern politics. They have a great section titled “Viral Spiral.” This is dedicated to helping people sift through the rumors. If you’re on Twitter, go ahead and follow – no bias, no bullshit.

In closing: please do your research and don’t just blindly vote for a party.  Don’t vote for someone because your parents or friends would. Get educated. Be informed. Take your time and really look into the potential candidates on your own. Don’t rely on media to tell you for whom you should cast your vote. Don’t let your friends and families tell you what you think. These two websites are just some of the few out there that will help you begin your research, help you form your own opinion, and then you will be able to be an informed voter. It’s your vote and yours alone. Make it count!

Bidding Adieu to Maya Angelou

Today, our world lost one of the most wonderful souls: Maya Angelou gave up her ghost quietly in her North Carolina home this morning.

Not only was she an accomplished writer, Maya Angelou wore several hats during her 86 years on Earth. Known for her poetry, she was also a  civil rights activist, dancer, film producer, television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, professor (Wikipedia). She published seven autobiographies and was an accomplished poet, in addition to earning several awards and honorary degrees between 1970 and today.

When I say “writing is therapy,” I can’t help but think of Maya Angelou and how she started writing. If you are unfamiliar with her history… she experienced something so traumatic during her early years that prompted her to become mute. Her strength came out in words, giving hope to so many others around the globe.

At age 7, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later beaten to death in an assault that some believed was carried out by Angelou’s uncles. The trauma of the rape and her assailant’s death left Angelou mute for six years.

She began writing during that silent period. She would chronicle the first 17 years of her life in the 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which her friend, writer James Baldwin, had encouraged her to write.

The book, which covers the racism Angelou had faced in the 1930s and ’40s and her fantasies of being blond and white, is considered an American classic. (Reuters)

Patrik Henry Bass, an editor at Essence Magazine, says “when we think of her, we often think about her books, of course, and her poems… but in the African-American community, certainly, we heard so much of her work recited, so I think about her voice. You would hear that voice, and that voice would capture a humanity, and that voice would calm you in so many ways through some of the most significant challenges.” (NPR)

Oprah Winfrey, who considered Angelou to be not just her mentor but also a very dear friend, will always remember how she lived her life: “She moved through the world with unshakable calm, confidence, and a fierce grace.” 

Harold Augenbraum, the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, stated “we share the gratitude of so many for Dr. Angelou’s contributions to literature, human rights, and social justice. Her legacy is one that all writers and readers across the world can admire and aspire to.”

best-Maya-Angelou-Quotes-sayings-wise-people(Source)

My favorite Angelou poems will always be Caged Bird and On the Pulse of Morningwhich was made famous when she wrote and recited the poem for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Give these a read/listen. Hear her voice shine through her words. Share your thoughts in the comments section, if you’d like.

Her work and words are forever etched in our history and she will not be forgotten, but remembered and celebrated for generations to come.