Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On a less serious note...

A couple weekends ago Eilleen and I, along with several of our friends rented Jim's Party Trolly to celebrate Eilleen's BA, my second BA, Cindy's 21st B-day, and just to cause mayhem in general. It is basically a psychedelic, open-air, death trap of drunken madness!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wanted: Retired Lawyer to Run Country Into Ground

I have a dilemma. Recently I have been having discussions with people regarding the current state of affairs of our government, specifically on the federal level. My dilemma is this, if you cannot conscientiously support any of the candidates running for a given office is it better to choose who you consider to be the lesser of two evils (based on whatever criteria you may set) or to simply abstain from voting for either candidate? In the past couple of federal elections I have found myself doing the former, and not merely in terms of voting for president. It seems that there are valid reasons for choosing either option and while I have practiced one over the past several years I am becoming more and more convinced that perhaps I should reconsider my voting strategy and go with the other option (abstaining).

Many people would accuse me of being politically lazy or say that if I do adopt that strategy then I have no room to criticize our government, but I think that is a pretty short-sighted view of what it means to be politically active or to have a political voice. That view assumes that the only valuable political opinions are those that fall within the narrowly outlined platforms of the Republican or Democratic party, which is absurd (for more reasons than you might think, but I'll get to that later). It also does not take into consideration the power of passive resistance, or the refusal to cooperate with what is perceived to be a corrupt system. Also, as those who know me best will tell you, I am no political slouch. I follow politics very closely, I have worked on campaigns (for both Republicans and Democrats), and I have been involved in various types of political activity (letter writing, protests, etc.) for most of my adult life. However, I am also very careful about the people, movements, or agendas to which I lend my voice and my support.

Which leads me back to my dilemma. Why should I be forced to choose when neither option is really acceptable? Shouldn't I believe in the candidate I am voting for rather than simply voting to say that I have done my civic duty? And doesn't voting simply to say that I voted degrade the whole concept of civic duty anyway?

The problem is this, as I have followed politics over the past several years I have become increasingly disenchanted with our legislators and with our election system. Given all of the scandals and the overwhelming evidence that there is really very little difference between the two parties I have found it harder and harder to not be cynical about the whole thing. Both parties run on the same platitudinous platform (education, health care, military, national defense) and neither party ever delivers on anything. They run on whatever platform will get them elected in their particular state and then vote however the lobbyists want them to vote.

As I see it, the real root of the problem is that there is no honor, no higher purpose in being an elected official anymore. Taking a public office no longer means working toward the betterment of our society and our way of life. Rather, it is a way for the wealthiest among us to be paid to enact laws that will mostly benefit them and their cohorts, with little regard to what a vast majority of the citizens of this nation either want or need. Political office has become nothing more than what middle-aged lawyers do at the end of their careers.

This gets right to the heart of why I think we have one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the "free" world. I'm not one of these people who complains by saying, "my vote doesn't count anyway so why bother?" I have made it a point to vote whenever possible on the assumption that my vote does count. But I am becoming more and more convinced that my vote is only really counted in a quantitative sense. But that is the problem. People want to know that their vote is going to count in a qualitative sense, that the person they vote for has their best interests in mind and that they are going to fight for legislation that will help, not only their constituents, but all citizens. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the state of affairs within our government. Honestly, I am ashamed of our government right now for so many reasons and I am sad that people have so little faith or trust in our government, myself included. But the truly sad part is that our government, as a whole, has given us no reason to believe otherwise.