You’ve got two choices: chocolate or vanilla. If you really like pistachio, you can technically choose pistachio, but you’re still going to get either chocolate or vanilla, so you might as well choose between those two.
At Penn, liking chocolate means you fit in. You can scream it from the rooftops, run around wearing chocolate scratch–and–sniff stickers, and even hang out onstage with the former CEO of Häagen–Dazs. If you like vanilla at Penn, it’s advisable not to be very vocal about it. Vanilla might have its own benefits, but handing out vanilla–scented flyers would undoubtedly cast you as a social pariah.
On the big day, when students on campus remind you to choose, you know they’re really reminding you to choose chocolate. Many students proudly sport a chocolate sticker. No one sports vanilla.
This is all rather unfortunate because, really, most of us don’t even like chocolate or vanilla all that much. Sure, some of us do, but most of us think they’re just okay; neither is ideal. Some people like them mixed — in vanilla fudge chunk, for example. And some people don’t even like either at all; they prefer strawberry or whatever “red velvet” is.
“Quit complaining,” some say. “There are people out there who don’t get to choose their flavor at all!” Well, if we are forced to choose something we don’t like, then are we really choosing?
Transparent ice cream analogies aside, I didn’t vote. It’s not because I was lazy or didn’t care or took my right for granted. It’s because I hated that I essentially had only two options. I realize it’s impossible to mold an ideal candidate, but I think that our two–party system fails us and strips us of the opportunity to make optimal decisions for our nation and its people. The Democrats like chocolate, so the Republicans must like vanilla. This polarizing dichotomy neglects all of the dynamic discourse scattered along the middle of the spectrum; it neglects most of us. It definitely neglects me.
Particularly at a place like Penn, supposedly a beacons of intellectualism, it’s not only upsetting that we feel limited to two options, but it’s especially disheartening that the lack of thorough discourse has trickled down to us. If students are embarrassed to wear Romney stickers and undecided voters feel pressured to vote for Obama last–minute, then we have basically negated the democratic process.
I’m not saying your vote doesn’t count (I’m an idealist, not an idiot), but what I am saying is this: unless you’re an ardent Democrat or Republican, your vote has essentially become as ineffective as my non–vote. It’s only a representation of choice.