The Lesser Evil? Seriously?
If your only 2 choices for president of the USA were handsome Jeffrey Dahmer, who tortured, killed, and ate 17 boys (between 1978 and 1991), or his (hypothetical) handsome twin brother, Timothy Dahmer, who tortured, killed, and ate only 5 boys, and who had actually been known to help boys from time to time, for whom would you vote?
What if we had a third choice, their ugly older brother, Ron Dahmer, who was a little bit crazy and had been a strong Reagan supporter back in the day, but who was strongly opposed to torturing, killing, and eating boys and who had never done so? Would you vote for Ron, knowing from statistically conclusive polls that almost everybody would be voting for one or the other of the handsome Dahmer twins? Or would you be doing your best to make sure that at least we didn't get stuck with the worst of the Dahmers?
Usually when I post something on my blog, I feel pretty sure about the inherent logical self-evident "alien sociologist" objectivity of what I'm writing. But this time, I'm writing about how confused I am.
Chris Hedges, author and foreign war correspondent, is a hero to me. He was recently the lead plaintiff in a suit against the government regarding the military detention law included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed by Obama on New Year's Eve, 2011, that allows the government to charge Americans as terrorists, arrest them, and hold them indefinitely without a trial "until hostilities cease." Perhaps for 20 years in some dank offshore prison, even Gitmo. Chris Hedges knew that he and his supporters were likely to lose the lawsuit, but his patriotism and love of liberty impelled him to try. Thanks to a brave district court judge in New York, Katherine Forrest, who ruled it unconstitutional, Hedges won. So at least for now, the government has been barred from enforcing the military detention law, although Forrest's judgement will probably be appealed. And this brilliant, brave man, Chris Hedges, says that we should vote for a third-party candidate.
When a man this great, a man whose every word I have always (well, almost always) agreed with, says, "Go ahead and vote this November. But don’t waste any more time or energy on the presidential election than it takes to get to your polling station and pull a lever for a third-party candidate--just enough to register your obstruction and defiance," what am I supposed to do?
The thing that makes me feel justified in my predictable stance--I believe we all should vote for Obama--is that so very many of our fellow citizens are going to vote for Romney. In a democracy, you have to accept the will of the majority, right? Even if you think their ideas and plans are stupid. If the election were held today, perhaps a majority, or at least a very large percentage of voters, would chose Romney. We're stuck with these Romney voters. We can't just wish them away. Just because we want a more ideal government, one that doesn't borrow money from China to fight fake wars while our schools and highways crumble, one that doesn't bail out criminal banking organizations while hardworking Americans lose their homes and go without health care, doesn't mean we can have one. As long as the peasants (which includes upper-middle-class educated Americans as well as trailer trash and hillbillies) keep voting Republican, we are doomed to the status quo, which any thinking person knows is unsustainable.
Like Hedges says, we have been colonized. WE ARE COLONIZED. When Americans vote for Romney, they'll be voting for a more oppressive, more total colonization. They'll be voting for an extension of Bush's presidency, for a proxy McCain/Palin presidency. So, in the real world, since so many of our fellow citizens will freely go to the polls this November and freely choose to turn UP the volume on the dictatorship and increase the level of our oppression, doesn't it somehow justify my stance, that we should do the only thing that we can do to grab onto their arms and try to hold them back as they turn up the volume? The louder the volume, the more it hurts! It would seem that we don't have the luxury of voting for a more perfect candidate, since in our particular democracy, which includes so many ignorant, provincial, scared, simpleminded people, we can't HAVE a more perfect candidate.
AND YET, if I vote for Obama, I'm going against the will of my dear Chris Hedges! Plus, I am voting for evil. Obama has licensed 4 new nuclear power plants in the South, the first president to allow new nuclear plant construction since the 1970's! How many Chernobyls and Fukushimas here in America will be acceptable to Obama? One a decade? Two? He quadrupled Bush's drone strikes and doubled the size of our fake war in Afghanistan! He has strengthened the anti-Constitution Patriot Act! I am really confused! Hedges makes it sound so easy and so right to register our protest by simply pulling the lever for a third-party candidate. But basic math, simple real-world thinking and real-world statistics, dictate that if we vote third party or don't vote, Romney will be our next president.
When you let a retarded child into your antique shop full of ancient Ming Dynasty vases, even for only 4 minutes or possibly for 8 minutes, is that a prudent and patriotic thing to do? Does allowing bad guys to break things valuable and precious to us really help our cause in the long run? Do we really need to let criminals take our money and break our stuff before we can finally get mad enough to start fighting to take our country back? Is allowing an invisible committee of global billionaires to rape us (even harder than they already are) for the next 4 or 8 years what a smart revolutionary would do? I honestly don't know, but it sounds somewhat illogical to me.
My friend Tony has been kind and clear, and yet persuasive, in arguing that after the failure of the Obama administration to deliver "change we can believe in," and after his proving to us that, actually, "NO, we can't," should we finally be done voting for evil, even if it's the lesser evil? Tony has made such a wonderful case for not voting for evil ever again. For example, he sent me this chart:
So I am writing to you, my loyal readers and to anyone you forward this to. I hope you will help me make sense of the quandary I'm in.
Before you render your judgment, I remind you to keep in mind that we're a democracy, not some utopia or even potential utopia that can be just the way Ron Paul supporters want it to be. In the real world, 57% of all white male Amerikan voters recently chose to give the keys to our nuclear arsenal to insane McCain and stupid Palin. Since our fellow citizens are choosing to ratchet UP dictatorship, that is the will of our democracy! Since none of us seem to have the guts, at least at this point in time, for real revolution, or for risking many years in prison like Chris Hedges just did in fighting the military detention law (that damned terrorist!), it would seem that in accord with our being democracy, we should make compromises that are doable and workable and realistic.
Even if half of our voters are dumbasses, who would vote for a lifelong business failure, war dodger, recently reformed alcoholic (who had been behind bars 3 times for drunk driving), simpleminded inarticulate fundamentalist Christian guy (Bush Jr.), we either have to accept their will or we must impose some kind of dictatorship on them, which would be counterproductive for those of us who value democracy. More recently, these same dumbasses voted for for a guy who graduated 894th out of 899 at Annapolis, crashed 4 American airplanes, was a liability, not a hero, in Vietnam, and who was a prominent member of the Keating Five, a gang that cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars during the Savings and Loan Scandal. This man bragged about supporting 95 percent of Bush's policies (which brought our great country to its knees), and he joked about "bomb, bomb, bombing Iran" (sung to the tune of a Beach Boys song). These fools voted for McCain even though that meant they were voting for greater subjugation from nameless, faceless billionaires, and that their votes might even translate into the deeds to their own homes being on the line, and even, for many of them, their own sons' very lives on the line!
Just think about that last point. Remember, we are not living in some perfect experiment that has suddenly gone awry. We are living in Amerika, a land where a large percentage of the people are ignorant peasants who believe the creator of the universe wrote the Bible, who hate gays, who want to control what people do in their bedrooms, who don't mind blowing up people in foreign countries that have oil, and who want to prevent women from terminating unwanted pregnancies. They want to perpetuate our barbaric health care situation, that puts us 34th in infant mortality statistics, right below Cuba and Cyprus! They call the successful health care systems of Germany, France, and Taiwan socialism. But look at where those countries appear on this list! And look at the CIA list right next to it, where we appear 39th.
There's one more aspect to my voting problem that I need to mention, and I think it will be very useful for you to consider. If you don't have children, it might not come naturally to you to think about this issue like I do. I think that in America, there are two very basic tiers of reality: for adults, there is the adult "real world," and for children there is the somewhat ideal world of childhood. Adults here have a pretty good life relative to most people in the world, but there are serious difficulties we face--a scary economy, high divorce rates, health care worries, mortgage payments, medical bills, etc. But children here, especially comfortably middle- and upper-middle-class children, have amazing, almost magically charmed lives. And regardless of how fkd up the world actually is, their lives are almost identical to lives they would live in a perfect world! They are insulated from pain, danger, and disease. Their lives are enriched with cultural experiences, high tech learning and playing devices, good food, and travel. (My children have travelled overseas many times. They get to sail around in the San Francisco Bay on my brother's new 45' sailboat (2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms), and they've had thousand-dollar Mac laptops since they could walk. And they get all this while being almost completely insulated from political guilt and political worry and even from political danger.) In many poor and unstable countries children don't have the luxury of living in a separate tier of reality, because they do have to step over dead bodies in the street, they do have to experience bomb blasts in the marketplace, and they do have to watch their mother shrieking in agony when her husband has been taken away by the authorities to be tortured.
So, when I vote for Obama, I'm prolonging, measurably prolonging, the insulation that my children enjoy from the harsh reality of life on this planet, and allowing them the best odds possible to better themselves, to strengthen themselves, to remain idealistic, and to keep believing in the possibility of a better world. I saw my daughter's transcript yesterday, and she's number 1 out of all 321 people in her 7th grade class. My son was number 1 in his high school, and now he goes to UC Berkeley and is doing very well there and in his side business of designing local advertising. He's a second-degree black belt while my daughter will soon be testing for her provisional black belt. They speak Chinese. They're the kind of people who will help build a good future. And I was able to nurture their lives and their personalities free from backpacks blowing up in cafes and free from radiation falling on their skin.
My revolutionary act of not voting for Obama and instead voting for Ron Paul or whoever the Green Party candidate turns out to be (they're considering Roseanne Barr!), in the real world, would narrow their opportunities, because that's what happens when a BLATANT tool of corporations such as Bush, McCain, or Romney comes to power. Admittedly it's almost as bad under Obama, but it's certainly not AS bad. Obama stopped the Keystone Pipeline from traversing the Oglala Aquifer, prevented the dumping of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, allowed 26-year-olds to stay on their parents' medical policies, saved the American auto industry, and much more. Obama might be a selfish egotist, but some of his actions indicate that he has a heart. Romney's history and his demeanor indicate that he might actually be an automaton.
What gain will my children obtain if I allow their buffer zone to be diminished? If all I get out of voting for a third party is to feel good about myself--"Jeff is such a smart revolutionary!"--would that be worth it?
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