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From the outside looking in

David Cohen: National identity can be established despite international origins

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 01:10

La sangre es mas espesa que el agua, or blood is thicker than water — so the saying goes. I had the opportunity to finally understand the underlying meaning behind this often-repeated phrase after I participated in the Venezuelan Presidential election on Sunday.

I came to the U.S. five years ago, as my parents, like many others, hoped to provide our family better opportunities. Stubbornly rejecting the changes, I felt that I would forever lose connection to my country of origin. Ironically, the farther I got from the home I loved, the more I understood its value. After years of struggling to keep those ties alive, the solution to my problem came as a simple decision: I have to vote in the elections.

To my surprise, this wouldn’t be quite as simple as I hoped for. A mountain of paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles quickly made my goal seem completely unreachable. As I worked to overcome these, I understood that the real reason I was putting so much effort into this task was because it is the only tool that I have for representing my ideals and helping those who made me who I am today. In this sense, family and that which you hold close is far more important than all other things.

As the decisive moment approached, I was a bundle of nerves. Would I mess up my election ballot? Would I vote for someone I didn’t mean to vote for? Would I have a nervous breakdown in the middle of our voting center? Fortunately, both my parents quickly laughed off my inane concerns and reassured me of the worth of the process.

Before I knew it, Oct. 7 arrived — election day. My parents and I drove to our consulate in Houston, eager to stand for hours in the unexpectedly cold weather. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie as everyone waited for a turn to vote. Regardless of political affiliation, social status or upbringing, all Venezuelans came together to make their voices heard.

Not only did I not have a breakdown in the balloting area, but the whole process went rather smoothly. After years of trying to create a link between myself and my past, I was finally able to help those who needed me despite the fact that I can’t physically be there for them. Being an expatriate — let alone a first-time voter — there is a certain sense of fulfillment that comes with being able to protect one’s beliefs through voting.

While comparing experiences with my friend and fellow voter Daniela Garciacaro, sophomore international studies major, she said despite the many sacrifices we had to make to vote so far from home, the reward for helping our families and country move forward is worth all the trouble. This idea very concisely echoed my feelings on the whole experience. Voting, by itself, is a rather mundane occurrence. You do it because you are told it is your civic responsibility. Nevertheless, taking action during elections creates a sense of community and identity that very few events can.

Tuesday is the last day to register for voting in the U.S., so take a moment to evaluate your options and prepare yourself for the upcoming elections. If it becomes clear that you don’t want to sign up — because it is a hassle or because it won’t make a difference — remember who is truly affected by your actions. Go out, register to vote and take part in this essential process. And when you do, take everything in, including all the little nuances and details that make it so interesting. These things that make you comprehend who you are and what you stand for.

It is absolutely worth it.

 

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