In 2012, I turn 18 years old. While many Filipino-American girls get presented to the public as a lady through a ceremony called a debut, I opted out of that in favor of a Kindle Fire and Netgear 300 Wireless Router connection — since in my Filipino-American family, I am not exactly deprived of dinner/dance parties and in fact, my baby pictures show me dancing on the floor as soon as I could walk. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those parties but the electronic gadgets are a necessity these days especially since I head to college in the fall of 2012, the beginning of another milestone in my life.
In 2012, I am also looking forward to my new legal rights. No, I don’t mean the right to smoke. I am not even eager to drive yet as I prefer to be sitting in the back seat of our car, writing, reading and enjoying the views and not fighting the traffic. I am referring to my legal right to sign contracts and open my own bank account without a co-signer, to voice my opinion on certain issues limited before due to my age, and yes, my right to vote, however nerdy that may sound.
To know that in the beginning, in 1776, as an independent democratic country, only white men with properties had the right to vote seems unthinkable to me. It was not until almost a century later, in 1869, when Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment that states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. While it was progress, significant things were still omitted.
It was only in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment that the right of women to suffrage was finally achieved, after a long struggle, personal sacrifices and incremental changes at the state and local levels. Along with the battle for suffrage, women had to fight for their rights to own properties. While the setting was in England for the classical movies “ Wuthering Heights” and “Pride and Prejudice”, which I highly recommend that you watch if you have not done so, I can picture American women being in the same shoes, living in a very uncertain world highly dependent on men for the quality of their lives. For Filipino men and women, certain rights would not even become a reality until 1946, when finally given the right to become U.S. citizens which paved the way for those naturalized, the right to vote.
Today, some of the fervor associated with the right to vote is missing in many citizens. Is it because life has gotten so much better that decisions, laws and regulations passed and signed into law, and practices by our elected officials really do not matter that much anymore? Are we really feeling so secure in our future and the future of our loved ones? The last time I checked what’s happening in Washington , I felt scared. I felt scared about not just my future but the future of the United States in general. Have we learned the lessons from the downfall of great civilizations? Is this country immune from collapse? Do we know the people running for office, what they stand for, and what drives their votes and decisions? I hope that those who have not registered to vote in 2012 do so, and exercise their precious right before it is too late. Let’s welcome 2012 with a new commitment to a more responsive citizenship!!!