For the third time since I gained the right to do so, I will not be voting. I will be forced to ask strangers with whom I share an undefined connection we term “nationality” to choose for me, and to choose wisely.
In a recent speech, Ida Odinga argued that we needed a stronger economy. Attempting to personalize the claim—to forge empathy—she said impoverished workers did not have the means to “give her grandchildren.” Putting aside the absurdity of the claim (the Odingas are far from impoverished), it might be possible, indeed necessary, to challenge the grounds of her claim: put simply, I think we lose “nationality” when we vote for the generations we will produce, when our genealogical roots become the mythical shoots that direct our actions.
We might learn, rather, to vote counterintuitively: to vote for strangers.
Adapting language from the US, we might learn to vote against what we perceive to be our own self interests, to vote, that is, for individuals who may not share our backgrounds and ethnicities, who may act or speak differently. To vote for strangers means not relying on the insecure myths of shared origin or even presumably shared goals.
From my vantage point, it also means voting on behalf of those of us who are strangers: figures online, the many abroad, the many in hospital beds, the many who, for some reason, will be unable to register to vote, the many whose votes may be destroyed or miscounted.
To vote for a stranger means putting aside one’s own desire to prosper, or, better yet, putting that need alongside a stranger’s perhaps undisclosed needs and desires. This, then, is the challenge and privilege of voting: to consider how one’s vote brings into being the world one wants to inhabit.