Cost of Voting One’s Conscience

Although the President of the United States is an idealized office that has less power than the emotional tide leading up to an election suggests, I am concerned about what I see as a train wreck with two possible outcomes: the train stays on the track or the train leaves the track. In either case, the train isn’t the little democracy that could, but is instead the fact that, as Chris Hedges stated, “We do not live in a functioning democracy, and we have to stop pretending that we do.”

My immediate concern is “what should a person who refuses to vote for the Democratic train that stays on the track be prepared to do if the Republican train that leaves the tracks should take office?”

To this end, I reviewed the rise of the Third Reich—chilling stuff. The review and some current reading made me aware of two things:

(1) it is unlikely that Trump could, at this point in American politics with its super-large corporate powers running the show behind the scenes, become that dictator. Not that a fearful populace (such as ours, both those afraid of Muslims, for example, and those afraid of Trump) cannot be manipulated to do anything when a sense of security is on the line, but that, as Paul Street argues, Trump is not the threat many of us want him to be.

(2) But if #1 above is wrong, things can change quickly in a society. Unless one has something more than the safety of one’s self and one’s family in mind, it becomes the easiest thing to go with the flow, join the ranks, submit to authority, keep one’s thoughts to one’s self, and become a tacit supporter of unthinkable events. This collusion with evil is no doubt happening somewhere in the world at any given moment, but for many Americans this collusion is usually epitomized by the citizens of Germany and its allies. That it happened in that unforgettable period in no way guarantees that it will not happen again, closer to home, in our homes.

The response to #2, much easier to write than to do, is to be willing to resist the majority, even at the cost of physical and mental torture. In other words, to refuse to encourage either train wreck puts one (me) in a position to suffer the worst of either scenario, to stop thinking and to start acting, to have a love and grace that sides with the victims early on.

I am not there, tonight, as I sit and type. But perhaps that admission is the first step in getting there.

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