Friday, September 22, 2006

Why Bother?

Last night Husband and I were sitting on the couch watching Survivor (yeah, yeah, I know) when a political ad came on—one of those where one senate candidate bad-mouths the other senate candidate. When it was over, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “I give up. I’m finished with the whole mess.”

Husband replied, “I’ve been trying to tell you that all along. It doesn’t make any difference who you vote for; they all lie and they all do the same s**t once they get elected.”

“You’re right,” I said. “I should’ve listened to you years ago.” Husband was very satisfied with that response, as you can imagine.

Last night when I said I was finished, I really meant it, but this morning I’m not so sure. I find myself lately going back and forth on whether to vote. All my life I have heard that voting is a right, a privilege, and, in fact, a duty for all good Americans. “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain,” I’ve heard. “Brave men fought and died so that you can exercise this choice that others don’t enjoy,” people say. I’ve heard all the rhetoric.

The problem is that if I vote, I want my choice to be a responsible one. I feel that if I decide on a candidate based on what the political ads say, I’ll be basing my choice on misinformation. Candidates frequently use these ads to tout their own voting records and criticize the voting records of their opponents. “So and so voted against increased funding for education; he doesn’t care about our children.” “Candidate Q voted for allowing convicted criminals to walk free without serving all of their sentence; he’s not tough on crime.” What these types of statements don’t tell you is that the education bill that So and so voted for had an amendment that would allow millions of dollars for the study of blue-headed desert fish in Alaska or other such nonsense and that the bill Candidate Q voted for was simply to clear the prisons of petty criminals like shoplifters and recreational marijuana users. Most political ads are designed to play on the emotions of the voters, rather than to convey really useful information.

If I want to make a truly informed choice, I have to spend tremendous amounts of time researching each candidate’s background; I have to read the entire text of bills that he or she voted on, bills that the candidate probably didn’t read all the way through; I have to attend town-hall-styled meetings and question and answer sessions—if the candidate is brave enough to take questions from an audience; I have to listen to debates; the list goes on. All this research takes up valuable time that could be spent on much more productive activities (like writing this blog). The truth is that most voters will not take the time to do the research necessary to make an informed choice. Instead, most voters will decide on the basis of half-truthful political ads and on the flyers they receive in the mail. Some voters will even decide based on which candidate is better looking.

None of this even takes into account the election scandals that have become so frequent lately. The newspapers are full of accounts of voter fraud in various places. The Diebold company has received plenty of criticism on how easy it is to hack into their touch-screen voting machines. I am not necessarily more confident in the machines that I was with the "chads" system in Florida.

All things considered, I believe that voting is much more trouble than it’s worth. Why go and vote if I’m not going to take the time to make an informed decision, and why take all that time away from other activities that make better use of my time?

If I really believe what the bible says in Romans 13:1, I would not even give a second thought to the political process. Paul tells us that “there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” In verse 4, Paul goes on to say that the ruling authorities are “God’s ministers.” Daniel 2:21 agrees with Paul’s sentiment, stating, “[God] changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and raises up kings.” Lest we believe that only the ‘good’ rulers are appointed by God, we should remember what God said about the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar: “Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin” (Jeremiah 25: 8-9). God called Nebuchadnezzar “my servant” and used him to fulfill a plan that God had in mind.

If I believe that back then God had a plan for the world and put rulers and kings and governments in place to accomplish that purpose, then the same must be true today. Does God need me to vote in order to make sure that his plan is accomplished? I think not. Why, then, do I feel that I must vote? Because society says that’s what I must do.

That said, when election day comes along, despite the fact that I have not spend an adequate amount of time researching the candidates, I will likely go to the polls and cast a vote. Instead of trusting that God really is in control of such matters and that all authorities are in place because of him and not because of me, I will likely cave into the pressure that society places on me and stand in the line in order to be able to say that I did my duty.


Tony Arnold said...

I think you just expressed very well a large majority of people's frustration with the whole process.

I could say Amen to every point you made. For me, I have come to the point that if I choose to vote, I am not going to second guess myself too much, and if I choose to not vote, I will not feel guilty either.

Whether I choose to vote will depend on which election, my mood the day of election, the traffic and lines on the way to the voting station, and probably several other very subjective variables to be determined later.

My days of feeling very confident over any vote I place are over for the many reason you stated in your post.


p.s. I just had a thought. Maybe on election day I will take a hint from Carl Mennenger and instead of voting, just find someone in need and help them. That small act will surely have more redeeming effect on the world than my vote will.

JMG said...

You've hit on something there, Tony. If everyone did that, the effects would be much greater than the results of an election.

jettybetty said...

Don't want to shock ya'll--but I am totally with you here...The Romans 13 thing resonates with all my being--if God is in control--what do I contribute? I don't know--since I read Mere Discipleship--I've thought about it a bunch. My first loyalty is not to this government. I just don't have this one figured yet.

jettybetty said...

And yes, I like Tony's idea--seems like a much better idea than standing in a line.

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I'm with you; I can't remember the last time I really felt good about a vote I cast. It is always an attempt to find the lesser of two idiots. This is why we need a canine theocracy.

Pat said...

To paraphrase somebody somewhere;
"What if you held an election and nobody voted?" Do we get to keep the ones we have? I hope not!

Streak said...

Ok. I understand. But not voting has given us Bush and torture.

Streak said...

My comment was more shaming than I meant. I am just frightened that this is exactly what Rove wants--for people to not participate. That frightens me.

Justin said...

In the state in which I live, one of the candidates has a dad who threatened that African Americans would burn down the city of Memphis if we didn't elect a black mayor (back in 92. The other candidate, who would probably be considered the moral values guy, his daughter had some pics up on facebook where she was making out with a girl, and another where she was dancing in her panties.

Politics is theatre, and I'm just watching to occupy time.

JMG said...

I know what y'all are saying Pat(Mom) and Streak. And I feel it too, believe me, I hated when that son of a gun got reelected.

All I'm saying is that if I believe what the bible says about God putting people in authority then my vote isn't important in the grand scheme of things.

I'll probably still vote, but I don't know how informed I really am.