Pamphlets distributed throughout Iraq warned voters that their lives would be at risk if they voted. One promised that the insurgents would “wash Baghdad streets with voters’ blood.” But the people were determined to vote. They would not let fear stop them from voicing their opinion. They swore that they would go and vote, even if they died at the polling site. They passed by snipers on the way to the voting booths. Through metal detectors, explosive detectors and many other security checkpoints, they continued in an attempt to ensure that their voices were heard.
Here in the United States, our voting conditions are not always ideal. People have been on the wrong voter lists, at the wrong precincts, missing absentee ballots and waiting in six-hour lines in order to vote. However, we don’t have the fear of death on our shoulders when we proudly walk in to the polls. We can go to the voting sites knowing that while some may disagree with whom we may be voting for, they most likely will not disagree with our partaking in the act of voting.
Due to threats of suicide bombers, car bombs and small-arms fire, Iraqi officials were forced to restrict travel, close borders and order curfews throughout the country. No one was allowed to carry weapons, or even drive a car. Many voters didn’t even know where they were voting, or for whom, until Election Day, all in an effort to protect the 13 million registered voters. Despite the attempts at protection and prevention, the day was not without tragedy. A rocket hit the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, killing two Americans. There were explosions at polling sites across the country, killing Iraqis as well as U.S. soldiers.
However, voting is merely a baby step towards rebuilding Iraq. Some say the elections were scheduled too soon, given the level of insecurity in many parts of the country. Others point out that Iraqis had limited access to information on the candidates before Election Day. These criticisms are valid and deeply troubling, but they do not take away from the courage shown by those who voted.
Those who braved the conditions to vote were forced to have their fingerprints taken with ink that would remain for days. A U.S. officer was quoted by CNN as stating their “worst nightmare would be to have voters’ fingers chopped off.”
Think about the passion that abounded throughout this country, even on our campus, this past November when we were fortunate enough to be able to vote for our President. Would you have been brave enough to risk your life to vote? Would it be worth it to you? Instead of the sporting the trend Sean John “Vote or Die” shirts, would you be willing to “Vote or Die Trying?”