Home > Hesitating > Red Badge of Cow-age

Red Badge of Cow-age

Voting Rights

Standing smoking in front of the anarchist bookstore looking worn and disgruntled– it’s hard to sell ideology and days of slow business can eat away your nerve… Approaching in my old punk rock t-shirt freashly adorned with my red “I VOTED” sticker I prepared myself for any amount of abuse which might be hurtled in my direction… The expected confrontation never occurs and, try as might, passing ellicits not even a trace of a sneer…

The girl at the coffee shop is thrilled by evidence of my participation in democracy… Earlier, she explained, someone told her they weren’t voting because they didn’t believe in it… What does that mean– like you can’t exist? Well, it wasn’t gonna drag her down and damned if she wasn’t gonna plaster that red sticker proudly on her shirt after her shift was over… It’s nice that she’s often the first person I speak to in my day but even so it’s hard to keep up with her sunshine…

Rock the vote parked one of those new VW’s out front of work, manned by a team of numbskulls in matching t-shirts… One looked like Sammy Hagar and played cock-rock licks through the car’s amp while a hapless film crew shot from cutting edge angles… The other must’ve recently escaped from the fraternity and stood much too close to me and explained that people had told them to fuck off as they were spreading the word ealier in the day… Can you believe that? Well, yeah, you make me wish I hadn’t voted– but instead of saying it I just wished them luck and gave up on smoking…

I’m a bad voter– I’m under informed and my comprehension of issues is on par with an Irish lab’s… Generally my grasp of conidates’ history is non-existent, I judge commercials by style and funding and I decide by emotional instinct over critical pragmatism… As guilty as this makes me feel I collect my torn paper cheat sheet and anxiously approach the polls, expecting mocking looks, quiet chuckling and some death by embarassment moment contrived by gravity and my lack of coordination… Aside from being accidentally disenfranchised one year I’ve never suffered any of the expected catastrophes and I can’t help but step lightly as I leave… It happens with the knowledge that my ballot may as well end up floating in the bay for all it’s worth– San Francisco is a predetermined district…

Still, the guilt of my feckless participation pales in comparison to that which I would– have accidentally– be consumed by were I to refuse… In the end I don’t think I vote because I care or because I matter or because I decide a fucking thing ot even because democracy’s such a great idea… In the end I think I vote for every southern black who risked being beaten, jailed or lynched for stepping up to a ballot box for the first time… For the women who marched through the streets suffering taunts, jeers and abuse for their suffrage… For the Central Americans who stood in line under military guard to cast their vote amidst a week of political bombings, assassinations and the closure of independent newspapers… For my highschool English teacher who flew back to Africa to participate in the first election after aparteid fell… I voted because Chinese tanks ran over college students and for Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement in Poland– because not voting would be pissing on the graves of people who deserved a right routinely taken for granted by the most powerful population in the world, and the graves still being filled today… Not really a good reason to vote or a responsible act, just a goad I’ll respond to like a pack mule…

Categories: Hesitating
  1. jay
    November 13, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    It seems like lots of intelligent folks adopt this rhetorical posture, but I can never see the force of it. It’s too much like the “starving children in India” argument for eating your peas. I mean, how exactly does the privelage or entitlement get converted into an obligation here?

    Generally, once you’ve bracketed off issues about utility or “difference making,” what on earth is implied by these historical situations?

  2. Brendan
    November 14, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    It is a starving children in India demanding your peas be eaten situation is all I meant… Meandering about town I was on edge for having my participation via voting challenged by idealogues and was scrambling through my brains for any sort of response… I don’t have one except that I feel guilty not doing it and associate that guilt with the democracy starved people past and present… Which is a shame…

  3. jay
    November 15, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    Huh. I can’t remember having encountered an anti-voting idealogue in this decade. On the contrary.

    Here‘s a brisk and interesting defense of abstention.

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