10.02.2008

with apologies to plato

disclaimer: I put off writing this post many times to avoid offending anyone, but this topic keeps coming up and it's on my mind, which means it's on this page.

I am by no means what anyone would call a renaissance man, with a wide range of passions and varying talents.  I would be the first to admit that I'm more or less, a pretty simple guy with a few interests and a handful of skills that might be called proficient, or at least adequate.  As such it is quite often the case that I find myself involved in conversations about say, soccer, or sailing, or travel, or art, or politics, or any of the many subjects upon which I am woefully ill equipped to tread, where I have both nothing constructive to add nor the faintest inkling of the issues being tossed about.

Having become accustomed to such situations I usually try to ask some intelligent (or at least intelligent sounding) questions.  Maybe I'll make an observation or, more commonly, agree with someone else's.  Sometimes I wind up just nodding like an idiot, but however it's done I've learned to get by without railroading the discussion or dying of boredom.  Lately though it feels like something has changed in one particular arena; talk of elections.

Did I miss a meeting?

Maybe it's just that there's so much crazy shit going on in the world that average folks can't do much about that gives this one act so much meaning for so many.  I'm curious what the correlation coefficient of voter turnout to world crisis looks like.  Somehow, somewhere along the line my political ignorance has made me a thing to be vilified, to be cured.  I've become every acquaintances "lost soul" who absolutely must hear their reasoning to lead me back to the golden path towards a ballot box in a school gymnasium.

I find myself subject to a dizzying array of "reasoning" meant to assuage my errant civic nonchalance: "It's your civic duty", "If you don't vote, you can't complain when the government does something you don't like", "You should at least go and spoil your ballot, that'll demonstrate your unhappiness with the candidates", "My grandfather DIED protecting your right to vote, does his sacrifice mean nothing to you?", "There are people all over the world who would kill / have killed / are killing for the right to vote, would you toss yours aside so easily?",  "If everyone thought like you, the system would fall apart!".

An endless stream of rhetoric with no real impact.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not some anarchist peddling anti-establishment nonsense, I'm glad people smarter than me are in charge and making the important decisions.  I'm glad better informed citizens are out there choosing leaders they feel best represent them.  And I'm REALLY glad everyone does not think like me, or the world would be one big mottled clump of dive bars serving cheap whiskey, cartoons, GHz, and Doritos.

But really ... spoil my ballot?  What a colossal waste!  A waste of my time, the time of the real voters in line behind me, the time of the ballot counters, the trees carved up for that ballot, etc.  Your grandfather gave his life in a war?  I'm sorry to hear that, and I laude his valiance and his sacrifice.  My fathers grandfather also made sacrifices in war, but not to protect my right to vote.  He was protecting my freedom, and my very right to breathe.  What kind of freedom demands that I vote?  Am I not free to leave those decisions in the hands of those more capable than me?

I'm not trying to dissuade decided voters out there, and I'm not inviting debate about my stance on the issue (If you feel you must vocalize your disapproval, feel free to insult me in the comments below.  It will probably be shorter than your argument.)  I'm just tired of being made to feel like some sort of lesser creature for being honest about my position.

Consider the argument of those trapped under dictatorships out there with no right to vote and their struggle.  I have no doubt that they would leap at the chance to elect a leader of their choosing, but let's take that line of reasoning a bit further.  Do you think they would rather be given just the right to vote, or would they prefer to live in a country so safe, so clean, so prosperous, and so free that they could choose never to vote and still live long and prosper?  A country like this one?

I think they would.  I know I do.
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