Friday, October 22, 2010

A Little Misplaced Emotion Goes a Long (Wrong) Way

Some of my extended “family” and a few of my “colleagues” are upset with me over a conversation thread on Facebook.  It’s ok, I forgive them.  But I felt the need to diagnose the affliction and categorize it for future remedy.  Heh heh…

So it started like this:  I said “It’s kind of funny how some people get as upset if I tell them I’m not voting this year, as if I said I was going to burn a flag”.

The ensuing responses went into a category 5 hurricane swirl of angst and resentment, saying things like I was being “irresponsible” and I therefore “lose all rights to speak”.  Some of these came from an experienced attorney.  One that drinks a bit heavily at times, and is extremely “left”, extremely, but still: a licensed attorney.  The others came from Republicans, Democrats, and a Tea Party guy who snuck into the room.  My extended family and colleagues are of a rather diverse frame of thought.

What they all missed before turning on their turbo-charged, fuel-injected, NOX-infused, knee-jerk machinery was the small part “this year”.

I’m 46.  I have voted in every election I’ve been qualified to vote in since I turned 18.  I have rarely met someone older than 30 who has not missed at least one election at some point in their life.  They usually slough it off to “couldnt’ miss work” or “was sick” or “out of town”, which are all completely bullshit excuses. 

I have voted with a full-blown Flu and a fever of 102 with green shit ejecting from every cough like stuffing cabbage heads into a wood chipper.  I went into work late, left work early, whatever it took.  I voted.  Even if you go out of town, there are ways to cast your vote.

But that only matters when you feel there is a “choice”.

Some like to compare the choosing factor to choosing food.  I’ve done it myself.  It’s a flawed rationale and metaphor, because food is life-sustaining, directly, empirically, while voting is not.  You can argue the indirect aspects of that statement until you turn 95 years old, but the fact is if you don’t vote you won’t fall over dead as a direct result.

I prefer the rationale/analogy of choosing shirts or shoes.  If you are presented with two such things, and neither fits or works for your tastes, you, as an American, reserve every right under the Constitution to not choose.

The highlight of the “discussion” involved points such as:

  • Does a convicted terrorist have more right to speak up in court than I have to speak up about politics, if I choose not to vote just one time?  Their answer: Yes
  • Does it justify a more serious response to burn an American flag in public than to not vote just one time?  Their answer: Yes
  • Should I (or “Do I”) lose my rights to “freedom of speech” by not voting just one time?  Their answer: Yes
  • Does this mean “inalienable rights” really means nothing anymore?  My answer: based on their logic: yes.

Now I will admit that my counter-argument strayed over the line into debating the merits of a pseudo-democratic system, and the corruption of corporatized politics and PAC influences and failed rhetorical platforms that seem to ensnare the masses like fish chasing bait on a cold morning.  That is an entirely separate debate.  Still worthy of vetting, but not the same as my reasons for not voting in 2010. 

And what reason is that? -- This year I see two candidates not worth a gram of snot.  Zero.  We have an incumbent who has accomplished nothing because he’s a mush-mouthed Casper Milktoast (look that one up), and a challenger who just regurgitates from a prepared queue card.  No plan details.  No clear vision or direction.  Just the same old one-word crap like “Integrity”, “Honesty” and so on. I don’t pick plumbers, electricians, doctors, car mechanics, or whatever based on “I’ll fix it” without telling me how (and for how much also!).

Most people pick a candidate using the following criteria, in order of importance from top to bottom:

  • Party
  • Appearance
  • Vocabulary and Tone of Voice
  • TV Ads

Go ahead and ask just about any stranger on the street: “Excuse me but how do you pick a candidate to vote for?” And after they give you the meaningless answer of “I listen to their views and what their platform is” then ask them details about their pick.  Ask them “what exactly is ___ going to do about ___?”  The more you drill down, the more obvious it becomes that voters really don’t know what their candidate stands for or what their exact “plan” really is.  “He’s going to go to Washington and make them change” (I’ve already posted my thoughts on that crap).  Enough of that. Back on the trail…

I will vote again, I am sure.  I never once suggested that anyone else not vote.  I’ve never condoned that, just as I have never condoned prosthelytizing others to vote for a particular candidate or party.  I make my own decisions and I usually sleep well with them.  This year my decision is to skip the election because I don’t like either candidate and that’s it.  If you want to vote, go ahead.  I’ll wait this one out.  I’ve earned it.  I’m not sloughing it off to illness, work, or travel either.  My one vote, statistically and historically (factually, really) will not sway the outcome.  No single vote ever does, never has.

So with the flawed perception that I was saying to NEVER vote stuck in their heads, they turned on the verbage grinding machine and started spraying back.  Oh well.  Tough shit.  That’s what you get for not reading and thinking before responding.  I can blow it off, for now at least, but I’m sure some of them will hold the resentment and hostile feelings for a good while.  Too bad.  Maybe if they really had an “open mind” like they keep bragging about, then this wouldn’t be an issue.

Summary

I am not now, nor have I ever, condoned or suggested that anyone not vote when they have the opportunity.  I am condoning the God-given right, the “inalienable” right, for Americans to not choose when they don’t want to choose.  For example, let’s say there are two candidates running on the local ballot.  One is firmly in favor of something you personally find morally and religiously “wrong”.  The other is firmly in favor of something you know for certain will cost you your job and your home.  Just sayin.  You don’t see a “win” from either one of these getting into office.  You could say you have the right to make a “write-in” candidate, but maybe you really don’t know anyone that can (and would) do the job properly.  You’re left with three options, of which none are satisfactory.  Why is that being irresponsible to not cast a vote you see as being wasted?

Unfortunate, yes.  Irresponsible, no.  Irresponsible would be getting too drunk to make it to the polls, maybe crashing your car into a school along the way.  Irresponsible would be unzipping your pants and urinating on the voting machine.  I certainly do not believe such a decision would forfeit my rights to speak up, as long as I don’t point my criticisms at one of the candidates alone.  I do believe that not voting precludes my logical right to blame one candidate or one party for subsequent issues or events.  It does not preclude me the right to criticize the system or situation as a whole.  But again, as I’ve already said: I fully intend to vote again, when the choices are worthwhile for my needs.  Just as you vote based upon your needs.

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