(Disclaimer: the following may offend you, and if it does, and you find yourself vehemently angry at me, forgive me. Pray for me a sinner.)
I occasionally mention to people that I do not plan on voting in the much-vaulted upcoming election, and could really care less which candidate wins- a proposition usually taken with curiosity, at the least. I suppose I owe an explanation of sorts for this shockingly heretical attitude- no, I’m not a full-fledged anarchist, though perhaps of the Dorothy Day sort… Rather, in appraising the two candidates, I cannot support either one, for reasons of the deepest importance. One may ask, why not vote third-party? For one thing, I am not all jazzed about anyone running- Chuck Baldwin is apparently a moral majoritarian sort, the Libertarians have fielded what seems like a Republican-lite candidate, and so on. Besides, let’s be quite honest, voting for anyone apart from the two is quite pointless no matter where you live. As it is, a vote for either McCain or Obama would probably be pretty pointless here, Tennessee being a state pretty well placed in McCain’s column. But regardless. Why then can I not support either candidate?
Both men represent systems of doing things that are rooted in fundamental violence and oppression; they both reflect and do not question in their own way- alike though not identical- the culture of death that both supports and informs that American State (not that it’s unusual in that). A vote for either one is a vote for continuing systematic, intense, State-funded and supported violence and aggression. They only differ in their preferred targets, and that is all. Obama, to begin with, is not and has never been the “peace candidate,” even excepting his undiminished support for abortion-on-demand. While his early rhetoric sounded anti-war and even slightly radical, he has long since obediently and probably willingly shifted into the usual centre-right position, an advocate of American exceptionalism- one supported only part of the time, in certain places, by bombs and bullets, you understand. Mr. Obama would have us leave off one war- that in Iraq (though not too quickly!)- in order to escalate another, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That even more civilians are being slaughtered by American “smart” bombs in the latter places seems to be of little importance; it is the good war, after all, and that no one disputes. Besides those stated objectives, Mr. Obama would have us continue to proselytize the world for democracy etc etc, and in those promises the threat of force is never far behind, even if the Democrats at the moment prefer to not emphasize it.
As far as Mr. McCain’s approach to foreign policy goes, one hardly need say anything. Obama at least wraps his imperialism in lofty rhetoric and sometimes anti-war sounding evasions; McCain stands on a stage and sings about obliterating brown people with his bombs. He fully and unapologetically embraces the war machine; hatred of the enemy and mass violence are necessary for his campaign’s success after all.
But that is not the only issue in which the two candidates embrace systems of brutal violence and oppression. Obama is an unapologetic, if not particularly outspoken, proponent of industrialized abortion, the systematic violence against unborn child and mother. Not only are we asked to tolerate this subculture of death and violence, but we are asked (well, with the State there isn’t “asking,” only telling) to support it. This violence is in fact made sacrosanct, in one of the great perversions of modern life: the “right” to destroy is not only important, but essential, the underpinning of the all-holy human (well, the right sort of human that is) ability to control all things, from unwanted children to unwanted nations. “Consumer choice” invades the womb and bombs the world.
Neither candidate has seriously challenged or even discussed the ongoing violence and destruction propagated in the name of the “war on drugs.” Its victims do not enter the national discourse; Obama has given vague soundbites about “reforming” in some vague way the war, but just as in his foreign policy, this only means a shifting a resources, the dropping of bombs on a different group of the poor. As for McCain, again, there is nothing hidden here. Both candidates leave unquestioned the pervasive evils of the drug war; neither can imagine or desire to imagine alternatives to this great projection of deeply violent State power. Why should they? Again, State violence becomes virtually sacrosanct: the drug war, the war on terror, are all holy wars, the fight of noble Civilization against its dark, murderous enemies.
McCain, despite having once sought immigration reform of a sort, is now parroting the xenophobic lines of the hard right, endorsing yet another system of dehumanization and violence, yet another front for creating enemies and targets. Racist tactics are, as politicians have long known, particularly in my part of the world, one of the most effective ways for stirring human passions and fears, and directing them into creating you more power.
Knowing all this- that to endorse either candidate is to endorse systematic violence against my neighbor- how can I in good conscience vote for either? How can I listen to the words of Christ, how can I claim citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, and give my assent to these sorts of things? Do not suggest to me the lesser of two evils- am I too choose which forms of violence and evil I reject less strongly?
Am I suggesting running away from the world because it’s messy? No- instead of voting, do something that matters, go get messy, stand up against the currents of violence and despair, rebel against the culture of death: go find a homeless person and buy him lunch. Befriend a lonely person. Plant a garden. Go to church. Go find your neighbor, talk to her, love her. Go find the closest nursing home and visit the elderly. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy centre. Treat the immigrant like a human being. Pray. Forgive your enemy. Love him, however you can. Don’t vote for his annihilation.