The Rite To Vote

I wish I had the right to vote. If I were able to vote it would give my refusal to do it ever so much more meaning. As it is, the State of Texas has confiscated my franchise, so it is hard to determine if I’m not voting for their reasons or my own. This generates more existential angst than my political philosophy prescribes. I get nervous around election time. It should be an easy thing to cast your lot, but it’s not.


It’s hard to estimate the importance of voting in our nation. We can focus on the ‘pissing-in-the-sea’ aspect of voting, what I call the dilution effect, and see voting as an almost inconsequential if not futile activity that amounts to nothing much because what effect does one vote have among millions? So you tend to feel like one of those microscopic movies of a million frantic sperm cells wiggling toward some instinctive goal, the mother egg of democracy, knowing that only one vote will ultimately decide it all. Or we can see voting as a profound, almost sacred act where each vote represents a single but essential stitch in the fabric of our society. It’s the stitch of confidence in the notion that we as citizens are participating in our own governance instead of being ruled. This is a complete illusion of course, but it is the illusion that keeps peace on our streets.

The vote seems to be the wild-card, the only thing that the oligarchs and the plutocrats have failed to purchase or possess. It’s the one thing that they cannot ultimately control even though they try mightily and with some success to buy elections with tumorous amounts of campaign contributions. It’s amusing that they have more success in buying parties and public officials than in managing the unruly electorate.

So, why would I not vote, even if I could? Part of it is my delusion that my writing, or just my pure animal presence, has an effect on the opinions of others that is more influential than a single vote would be. But that’s a personal problem. The more compelling reason would be that none of the candidates on the menu even remotely represent my values, beliefs or interests. They are all plastic products, brand names, labels that obscure their true contents and origins. It’s impossible to know who they are really working for but it’s certainly not for me. I boycott the vote because our electoral system is so tricked up by tradition and generations of gerrymandering that it has become some mad lottery of a beauty contest where both choices amount to black and blue. Having the choice between A and B is of no relevance if what we want or need is C and C isn’t on the ballot. We are being fed non-choices. Our system of voting was established to accommodate the needs of 18th Century Colonial Americans and has gone steadily downhill from there through 200 years of graft and manipulation. No wonder it’s a clattering mess and functions like a quaint, outmoded steam machine. It’s time for a new one designed for the needs and capabilities of the 21st Century.

The other reason that I would not vote even if I could is that the whole process has become a national embarrassment and I would be ashamed to participate. For the money being spent on slanderous and irrelevant television commercials we could provide complete Ivy League college educations for 50,000 students. Every time The Poet’s Eye sees one of these scurrilous defamatory scare ads there is a hollow gnawing in the poet’s stomach. This is the way civilized adults behave? It grieves me to watch the high art of advertising being used for such dubious if not down-right wicked purposes. Our airwaves are poisoned by lies and propaganda-porn of the most shameless variety. We shouldn’t let our children watch it.

Since I don’t have the right to vote, I must continue to vote with my writing. With these words I urge you to vote. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I don’t believe in god either but I would also urge you to pray. It can’t hurt. Maybe I’m wrong about god. It’s not likely that you can turn the ship of state by casting a rose petal off the bow, but stranger things have happened. There is a more important reason to vote than electing this candidate or that one. Whitman said that the song is to the singer and the oration is to the orator etc. In the same way, the vote is for the voter. By the act of voting, even casting an unwise or ill-informed vote, the voter is joining into the civilized covenant that says we are willing to place the needs of the commonweal before our own personal desires and selfish interests and that we will abide by the general consensus even if it is not exactly the way we would have it. So Vote! It’s as much of a rite as it is a right. Go through the motions, be part of the ceremony if you can. Vote for yourself.

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him,
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him,
The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him,
The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him,
The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him,
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him–it cannot fail,
The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress
not to the audience,
And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or
the indication of his own.
–Whitman

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One Response to The Rite To Vote

  1. static says:

    i remember the first time i voted in texas. all it got me was disappointment and a jury summons. the second time, as i was standing in line knowing that the candidate i was voting for would not win, i questioned the futility of it all. then i was handed a sample ballot to look over. there were so many people on there that it would have taken me months of research to actually know anything about the judges, county clerks, comptrollers, et al that i would be voting for or against. what the fuck is a county clerk anyway? the whole thing reeks of a scam perpetrated on the ignorant populace, a way to confuse them into voting straight ticket. pepsi or coke, red or blue, target or walmart, democrat or republican. the only effect seems to be no effect at all. i still wake up and slog off to work everyday and when i come home at night and listen to the crickets and crackheads and look up at the moon i wonder what difference it made. it’s then that i come to the inevitable conclusion that it didnt.

    i continue to vote as a way to say fuck you to the political system. i use my vote as a very small instrument of chaos. and i use it to hide my apathy from those who havent yet realized the futility of it all.

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