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From Bangladesh: Vote for democracy and free speech

Nighttime traffic in Dhaka. (Usraat Fahmidah/YJI)

Dhaka, BANGLADESH – Growing up watching Hollywood movies, one of the things that influenced my innocent mind was the righteous and uprightness narrative followed in these movies.

If there is one thing I learned from watching countless Marvel movies, it is this.

Democracy is everything.

Parnian Shahsavary/YJI

If you pose a threat to our freedom of speech and democracy, then you are an enemy of the state. It’s as easy as that.

Every dinner table conversation with my family has been about comparing Bangladeshi politics with American politics. Why? Because American politics have been idolized for their power to hold freedom of speech at their very core despite all the criticisms.

Freedom of speech is a rarity we developing democratic countries struggle with.

The outcome of this election is crucial, not just for Americans but for all the Gen Z youth around the world who learned the fundamentals of democracy from the American Constitution.

They are closely following the debates, polls and news.

The oldest American youth in Gen Z will be voting for the first time this year and everyone is optimistic about the result.

But this particular election is important.

The next generation of voters either gets to see democracy triumph and see their vote make an impact, or see an unqualified leader – someone who stoutly dismisses the issues that directly threaten our generation – take the most powerful position in the world for another four years.

With the rise of authoritarianism and populism around the world, it’s imperative the global superpower reigns victorious, because at the core of it is our freedom of speech.

People have risen up in protests around the world this year, exercising their freedom of speech. But the response from government has been a tremendous effort to silence dissent, directly threatening free speech.

The results of the American election will create a ripple effect around the world causing an impact on global democracy. 

But my biggest concern is what the next generation of voters around the world will take from all this. Because we have closely followed the campaign, the polls and even the fly in the debate.

My friends and I understand the importance of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’s representation of women and people of color as she seeks the vice presidency as Joe Biden’s running mate.

We understand the urgency of Biden’s environmental plans when climate change threatens our lives.

In Bangladesh, we understand the urgency of his climate policy because climate displacement creates a problem for millions in my country. We understand because we have had countless discourses on this.

We have had discourses on this because America lets you criticize out loud. At the end of the day, your freedom of speech remains intact without posing a threat on your life. That’s America for you.

But all that is at stake as President Donald Trump, a leader with questionable beliefs, is on a trajectory to throw everything into uncertainty for the world if he wins another term.

A biker rides through the congested streets of Motijheel, Dhaka. (Usraat Fahmidah/YJI)

We have already seen a glimpse of that with his nuclear threats, Muslim ban and more.

We are invested in this because the whole process – whether it’s the presidential debates or Trump’s tweets – teaches us how the structure of a democracy works. The election’s impact will either restore the beliefs held by the next generation of voters, or crush them to bits if the president who publicly spewed hate against people of color and Muslims becomes a global leader again.

America is considered the epitome of freedom of speech.

Each and every vote matters right now to uphold the pillars of democracy that will either restore or crush the beliefs of the next generation of voters.

Anticipation is in the air. What’s next for us?

Usraat Fahmidah is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

“The World is Watching” is a 10-part commentary series from YJI students outside the U.S. about the American election. Read previous essays here:

From Panama: Don’t let history repeat itself

From England: America, your decision is important

From Turkey: U.S. election may encourage – or erode – global democracy

From Mexico: U.S. election will impact our economy

From Canada: We’re counting on you, America

From Nigeria: U.S. election means as much as our own

Polarized and burning, the world needs Americans to vote

From Australia: fascinated, worried by American election

From Morocco: America, we care how you vote

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