Why they wait in line
by Brad Voss
MITS Executive Director
This week was an exciting one in Kenya. In only the second presidential election since the new constitution was approved in 2010, millions of Kenyans woke up Tuesday morning to make their voice and their vote count.
As I watched the long queues of people waiting to enter polling locations all across Kenya this week, I thought to myself, “That’s crazy,” and “Why would they wait so long in line?” Seeing the long lines of voters all across the country, despite the presence of rumored government corruption and threats of election-fueled violence, was inspiring and also somewhat confusing. In nearly thirty years of voting in local, state, and national elections in the US, I have rarely stood in line for more than 20 minutes. In fact, in most elections I’ve never stood in line at all. The idea of getting up before dawn, walking miles and miles to a polling location, and then standing in line for hours upon hours to cast a ballot has literally never crossed my mind.
The elections in Kenya this week are causing me to reconsider my own attitude. Have I taken for granted the opportunity I have to help choose my local and national leaders every few years? I think I have.
Do I lose interest fairly early in the 4-year election cycle filled with debates, political ads, ridiculous rhetoric, and fake news? Uh, yep.
Do I too often complain about the lack of good candidates running for office and then quickly become discontent when the winning candidate fails to do exactly what I want? Well, yes, I do that too. I have a serious problem. But I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
For far too long I have undervalued the importance of free and democratic elections that have occurred in the United States of America for my entire life and for 183 years before that. I think this is what happens when you are freely and easily provided with something for your whole life with very little threat that it will ever be taken away. I think growing up in a white, middle-class, American culture void of real disadvantage or distress planted seeds of contentment that grew into complacency. This gave way to full blown arrogance and encouraged me to seriously become indifferent about things like democratic elections….and quality education….and sanitation….and roads and beds and food and water……and the list could surely go on and on and on. But this week something feels different.
I think it’s because I now have friends who are voting in Kenya. I think it’s because I’ve heard their stories of how hard Kenya has worked to change and grow and develop. I think it’s because I’ve listened to them recount what life was like growing up without fair elections and access to education and clean water and enough food to eat each day. And maybe it’s because now I’m keenly aware of how many kids and teenagers and adults struggle to survive each day around the world.
All of a sudden, this week, the privileges and opportunities I’ve received seem so much more treasured and cherished. I’ll be praying for my friends in Kenya this week as they do the hard work of building a democratic society. I’m praying that election results will be met with peaceful reactions and hearty pledges to keep those in power accountable to govern fairly and graciously. And I’ll be praying that God reminds me daily that I have so much for which to be grateful and thankful. Join me in praying for Kenya this week and join me in supporting those who are working so hard to bring positive change and Jesus values to their homeland.
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