As citizens, we believe that everyone should abide to the law of the land, to serve and protect those in danger and to keep our government in place. However, power manipulates the authority and makes our system corrupt. Police officers are known to be the citizens’ protectors and we depend on them when a bad act comes along, but they too are open to become corrupt. Kelly Thomas, “a 37-year-old homeless man afflicted with schizophrenia” was brutally beaten to death by Cpl. Jay Patrick Cicinelli and Officer Manuel Ramos in Fullerton, California. To make matters worse, Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas,was “offered…nearly a million dollars to settle the case” by Fullerton city officials. However, Ron Thomas declined and pushed for a criminal trial.
These men committed a violation of the 8th amendment for “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” and by violating the right of a mentally ill man, they should be charged as criminals. Under a U.S. code called Section 1983: Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights, “it [is] unlawful for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive another person of his or her rights under the Constitution or federal law. The most common claims brought against police office [of many]…excessive or unreasonable force.”
Though these policemen violated Kelly Thomas’ rights, they also have rights to stand trial according to the 6th amendment and have the right to have a “jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.” Currently, Officer Ramos “faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder but only four years if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.”
Research has shown that there are number of percentages that police have used unjustified brutal force against a person, 13% are fatalities, sadly, Kelly Thomas was one of that 13%. No government system is perfect but it shouldn’t be so brutal that instead of protecting citizens, they kill them. Learn your rights as individual citizens and don’t be a victim of that 13%.
As I began to learn more about the unit of Elections in my government class, I found an interest in voter participation. Why find an interest? Being a first generation Latina, I have observed that many of my culture do not feel the need to vote right, a right that they have been given being citizens of the United States of America. Surprised by a chart on Realpolitics.com, the Latin votes haven’t really progressed much.
In a heated conversation with a cousin of mine, who does not find the need to vote, we discussed the reasons of voting not being necessary.
His main reasons were:
1. If he were to vote, the final is decision to be made is by the Electoral College
2. Plenty of others will vote making up his decision
3. His vote will only get wasted
4. Sometimes does not know what he is really voting for
Aside from these points there are many other reasons for why citizens do not go out to vote who are not Latinos. According to the Top 10 reasons of a San Antonio site, some reasons include:
- Vote won’t count so they say ‘Why vote’?
- Too busy: Students and employees report they are to take time off from work or school.
- Not interested in voting or politics.
- Can’t get to the polls (no transportation)
- Illegal immigrants are not authorized to vote.
- Don’t like the candidates.
- Don’t have transportation to get to the polls.
- Out of town on vacation or business trips.
- Forgetting to vote (common explanation)
- Lines are too long.
Who would have known that there were so many excuses for not voting! Many of these reasons can be solved through a simple website or calling local polling station. The rest can just be solved by not indulging into an apathetic attitude and actually learning about what is going on in the government.
Understanding and catching up with what is going on in the government is one of the main reasons most non-voters fail to pay attention towards. Yes, there are non-voters who know about the government and decide not to vote but the majority of them are not willing to even learn about their government, “a nation that hates politics will not long thrive as a democracy.” (Why Americans Hate Politics by E.J. Dionne). Having a voice is not common in all countries, so voting has and is being revolutionized everywhere such as the recent event in Egypt. “The most important right citizens have is the right to vote. By voting, the people have a voice in the government. The people decide who will represent them in the government.” (Ben’s Guide,‘99). Struggles are present but those in the United States have the responsibility to vote as a U.S.A. citizen and not just because it is a duty, it makes up our character, ideas and the future of our children. However,due to the lack of interest of American citizens in their government, many do not vote. Coming upon a Why Vote? website, I leave to you its main point to vote, “the state effects most people in some way nearly every day, it would be nearly impossible to not have an opinion on health care, crime, terrorism, education, poverty, transport and a whole host of other areas. If you have an opinion then surely you should express it by using your vote.”