For the United States it is voting day at last.
As early as tomorrow freedom will ring across the land as all the political ads will finally stop running. Yes, for once in my life, I’ll be happy to hear about side effects (up to and including death), how much money I won’t have in my retirement and garments specially designed for Americans and made in China so they can inhale whole containers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (where a pint is still 16 ounces) and finger the remote control – all at the same time!
This day brings a lot of craziness.
I’m not going to miss the ads. Let’s take a look at Measure WTF. Ostensibly this measure was brought to the ballot via the citizen initiative process. What does that mean? Most likely that paid canvassers collected the signatures. What’s that? I love the smell of democracy in the morning.
At first glance the premise of Measure WTF sounds good. Yeah, what’s wrong with it? I might vote yes. But then I start to wonder. Wait a moment! It’s possible that someone is pulling a fast one. Like writing a law that allows more pollution and calling it the “Clean Skies” Act. Clever. I run the logic through my head and the results of the thought experiment tell me that something doesn’t add up.
So who opposes Measure WTF? Who is for it? And why? What’s really going on here?
The fun part is when each camp runs lies saying the exact opposite things and calling the other side liars. Clearly both can’t be true at the same time. Even Plato knew that. So what gives? Maybe everything said all the time by both sides is always untrue? That’s possible.
Meanwhile our legal system struggles with basic questions like: Should it be criminal for political candidates to lie? (Here comes references to the First Amendment, free speech and multiple drops of the word “chilling.”)
Should it be wrong for political candidates to lie? Or for lies to be told about ballot measures? You bet your ass, but we’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time and resources quibbling about the quantity of divine specters moving rhythmically in time to music on the sharp end of a tiny piece of metal. Something to do with an arcane set of illogical rules now known as the law.
In the lead up to voting day a lot of people will tell you to do your civic duty and vote. They say this, of course, from their position on higher ground. They say it loftily and with great pontification. There’s an element of shaming involved. Loosely paraphrased they seem to be saying, “If you don’t vote you’re a giant stinky turd.” I’m looking at you, Ron Howard.
First, there’s no law that says citizens are required to vote. Second, a ballot randomly filled is presumably worse than one filled using much effort and thought. (Then again, maybe not. I guess it depends on who’s doing the thinking.) Thirdly, the will of the populace doesn’t necessarily make sense. The people who founded this country were wary of “mob rule” and that’s why we’re a republic.
Santa Claus, surprisingly, even gets in on the action. No one, not even Santa, knows how you voted but he does know if you voted. And this is now one of the criteria considered when he makes “naughty” and “nice” decisions. “Ho, ho, ho! Little Tommy in Portland didn’t vote this year? Oh, no. Ho, ho, ho. That’s not very nice.” He probably obtains this information from political parties. The government serves up voting status information so it can be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes. Once I was teased by my neighbor in the opposition party because I missed a vote.
Yes, a vote is important. Your vote counts. Usually as a +1 on whatever it was you voted for. That means each person has a one-to-one ratio of influence. We’re all equal. Of course, that’s not good enough for some. They say, “I want my vote to be 100 times more valuable than yours, chump.” These are the people who grab megaphones and, via the acquisition of wealth, attempt to persuade public opinion via the airwaves to their way of thinking. Of course, thanks to the Supreme Court, persons like for-profit corporations are now extended this same privilege. It almost doesn’t seem fair.
Voting cheerleaders often conclude with an argument like this: “If you don’t vote you give up your right to complain.” This illustrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution and common sense. Our courts can’t decide if lying should be criminal but we’re going to take away our greatest right of complaint? I don’t think so. Not on my watch.
There’s no civic duty in voting at random. A monkey with a piece of Samsonite luggage could do that much. (And maybe a better job than the mob.) The true test is for it to be done in a thoughtful, intelligent manner, based on a research, relying on solid facts and known truths. If not, voting is nothing more than “garbage in, garbage out.”