As voters cast their votes in the mid-term elections on November 2nd, a sizable number of older Tibetan Americans in Jackson Heights, Queens, stayed away, citing that they had already cast their votes for their candidates…in October.
“I voted last month,” said Dorjee Tsering, a 64-year-old Tibetan American. “I voted for the very crucial preliminary election of the next prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile.”
Even after years of acquiring American citizenship, many older Tibetans do not concern themselves with American politics but instead they continue to actively participate in the exile Tibetan government politics.
Dorjee, who came to the US in 1992 after the enactment of the1990 immigration Act, has been an American citizen for the past 15 years. But he has never voted once and Tuesday’s election was no different.
“I am an American only on the papers,” said Dorjee. “In my heart and mind, I am a Tibetan and I will vote only for the Tibetan government.”
However, Dorjee’s idea of patriotism is not embraced by younger Tibetans who are increasingly taking a keen interest in American politics because they believe that the political party that will come into power not only has the power to influence the politics of America but the politics of the world, including Tibet, as well.
Tenzin Yangzom, 24, got her citizenship this year and said she went to vote first thing in the morning on Tuesday. Besides the excitement over her newly acquired status, it was the importance of voting that she said, excited her more.
“At times, the conformist views of the older Tibetans really anger me,” said Tenzin. “I don’t think voting as an American citizen will make one less Tibetan but it will surely change lot of things for the Tibetan politics.”
Reflecting on the election’s outcome, Tenzin thinks that the defeat of Nancy Pelosi as the speaker of the House is a big blow to every Tibetan as she supported the cause of Tibetans.
“Had the older Tibetans made their votes count, Pelosi may have won,” said Tenzin. “You never know.”
There are an estimated less than 6000 Tibetans in New York, the largest concentration of Tibetans in the United States and in the western world.
Meanwhile, Tsering Sangpo, the President of the Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey attributes the lack of education and awareness as two other factors that could be keeping older Tibetans away from the election booths.
“Many of these older Tibetans are not educated and hence do not know how important the right to vote is,” said Tsering.