I see that Ellipses Project solicited articles/reflections about voting, but did not publish the one I submitted. Hmph. Well, I’ll just publish it here.
The Illusion of Choice: thoughts on voting
I worked a temp job earlier this year but now in the boredom and stress of unemployment, struggling with the lack of jobs in the city I now live in and my inability to flow with popular forms of entertainment on television as a distraction, I spend a fair amount of time blogging on Tumblr when I am away from my main WordPress blog.
There’s a lot of voting propaganda, online forms and memes, urging and yelling at people to vote going around on Tumblr. Everybody loves offering their opinion on why everybody should vote. Because of this I’ve had plenty of time to have the frighteners put on me about what will happen if Romney becomes president. I am truly afraid and worried. If that was the goal of people’s coercive tactics on Tumblr (to scare me, to agitate my anxiety and give me waking chills and nightmares), they have succeeded.
Have they convinced me to vote though?
I get this strong suspicion that there are two ways my vote doesn’t count:
- The elections are rigged, Romney wins anyway. I don’t put anything past politicians in this country. If Romney wins, I doubt it will be because not enough people voted for Barack Obama.
- Its a lose-lose situation: I was born poor, I’ll stay poor while people and politicians busy themselves with illusions of American progress, trying to reinforce safety nets for middleclass Americans that are already there.
Even if I did vote my situation isn’t going to improve if President Obama returns for another term. Like nothing has changed for the past four years, like it hasn’t for many working class and poor people in this country.
Let’s not even discuss the weeks of shit storms raining down in other countries, caused by the U.S.
It doesn’t seem to have changed the reason why I didn’t vote four years ago and why I don’t particularly feel urged to vote this year, with the exception of the threat of four years of Romney hanging over my neck like the freshly sharpened blade of a guillotine.
I published my reply to someone who admired and looked up to me but confessed that he unfollowed my blog because he had just turned eighteen, felt empowered by his power to vote and campaign for President Obama, and was disappointed in my choice not to do the same.
This brings me to the topic of the illusion of choice, lesser evilism, and progress in the United States.
I try not to view President Obama, as many people tend to, as Jesus Christ or God, ever working in mysterious ways that I just don’t understand because as a tiny human I can only see the tree, not the forest.
Many people in the Black community present President Obama as the Black man on edge, damned if does, damned if he doesn’t, so you should vote for him anyway, if only because he’s Black. I would prefer President Obama to Romney and to every president who has ever been president of this country. Actually, you know what? I would prefer that this country really change as opposed to clinging to every inch of progress it gains in defense of its history and its deplorable effects on the world.
On Tumblr and during my time at the university what I’ve noticed is that the people barking the loudest about getting people to vote are the ones who stand to benefit the most from the election of a candidate who is heralded as championing and defending them–middleclass Americans. They are also the ones who lecture the loudest about first world privilege.
When has this focus on the middleclass ever changed anything for working class and poor people, who are most likely to stay struggling in the lower class status that they are born into? What has it done to eradicate poverty in the United States? I’m not trying to be an idealist but I still kind of believe that if this is the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, there shouldn’t be not one person homeless or hungry, barred from things that others take for granted. What’s more, this country shouldn’t be causing grief in other people’s nations.
Working class Americans are put in the position of continuously scraping and toiling and trying to get what middleclass Americans have instead of actually having class disparity addressed. While the middleclass and the rich sit around romanticizing progress, we’re struggling to make ends meet.
My stance on voting is not because I’m lazy or because I don’t care. If I did vote, clearly I would pick President Obama. I just don’t see the point of
- coercive voting propaganda
- voting for a candidate whose campaign is geared towards the middleclass with seemingly no mention of working class and poor people, as if they don’t exist (among other things).
I’m simply trying to be a conscious citizen in a country where the working class and poor go unheard and ignored. We are given “handouts” as band aids to real heavy detrimental problems and then privileged people and people from other countries complain about that and plaster us with the ills of the entire nation.
I’ve seen some pretty low blows committed by people trying to get others to vote, some even saying that I am dishonoring and disregarding the sacrifices of my ancestors and those who came before me by not voting. That’s an insulting punk ass tactic, and it is usually initiated by other Black people and righteous white women who fancy themselves as suffragettes in another life. They fought so I could have a real choice, not a choice of cutting off my foot or cutting off my hand or choosing designer brand cereal over generic brand cereal when what I need is a job and free healthcare.