Voting is a right. But should you?

 

Let’s have a discussion. The topic may seem controversial at first glance but one that is worthy of thought. In fact, think of this as a thought experiment; an idea you may not agree with, yet is not without merit.

As I write this America is celebrating Memorial Day. A national holiday that asks us to collectively reflect on the sacrifices made by those who have died serving in our armed forces. Did you know that today less than 1% of Americans serve in the armed forces? This is a stunning number given how many “patriots” we have on social media ready to cry “Treason!” when they see or hear something that causes offense. Given today’s climate you would think half of our country served some time in the armed forces. 9% of our population are veterans. Fewer and fewer people are signing up to serve. I can only hope this trend continues and becomes a driving reason for fewer wars and more diplomacy.

If only 1% is willing to defend our country, what should the other 99% do? What is the least we should be willing to do to serve our nation?

If you had asked me this question an month ago I would have said, Vote. “Voting in elections”, I would have said, “is not only a right, but a duty that every American should exercise”. In the past, I have argued that America should make presidential election day a National Holiday just as they do in other countries. My conviction about voting was strong, and it was my long held belief that those who did not vote were doing the country a disservice and were partially responsible for the D.C swamp that is the American government. But then I heard about Walter Lippmann, and I had to seriously reconsider my opinion.

Most of you know I am a huge, huge fan of podcasts; so much so that I dedicated a past blog to some of my favorites. One that has grown on me is Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know. It started out as a web series that looked at the lighter side of conspiracies, but is now a be-weekly podcast that looks at the darker side of history.

A few weeks ago an episode aired titled Is Democracy Impossible (May 2, 2018) in which the hosts talked about the controversial subject that pushes against democracy. This is how I came to learn about Walter Lippmann.

Lippmann was a newspaper columnist whose influence was felt worldwide. By the time of his retirement Lippmann was the most respected political columnist in the world. Here is a quick political bio on Lippmann.

“While studying at Harvard (B.A., 1909), Lippmann was influenced by the philosophers William James and George Santayana. He helped to found (1914) The New Republic and served as its assistant editor under Herbert David Croly. Through his writings in that liberal weekly and through direct consultation, he influenced Pres. Woodrow Wilson, who is said to have drawn on Lippmann’s ideas for the post-World War I settlement plan (Fourteen Points) and for the concept of the League of Nations. Lippmann was briefly (1917) an assistant to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. Wilson sent him to take part in the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles (1919)”.

Lippmann started out as a champion of voting rights and felt it was a duty of all American citizens. But as time went on, as the world become smaller and global relationships became more complex, and witnessed less than ideal candidates being voted into office Lippmann developed a startling argument; he came to believe that “the general public could no longer judge public issues rationally, since the speed and condensation required in the mass media tend to produce slogans rather than interpretations”.

This is a two-pronged argument. Lippmann believed that the general public was unable to fully comprehend the complex global issues facing the country and that the media was unable or unwilling to educate the public; it was easier to dissect and strip the issues into digestible sound bites. Ouch! That cut may run deep, but can we truly argue against it given our current state of media and collective short attention span?

Lippmann published a book in 1922 titled Public Opinion. In part he argues that: 

A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power…. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.

In a nutshell, Lippmann is arguing that the world is now intertwined and complex. Most people are incapable of understanding this complexity and don’t take the time to learn how the actions taken by governments will impact the economic and social fabric of society. It is no longer useful to think we can vote from our conscience, since our conscience may be deluding and keeping us ill-informed. The media feeds on this delusion be spinning casual opinions that do not fully inform us as to what is in our best interest.

Again, it is hard to argue against him. Many Americans no longer balance their own checkbooks and or are deep in debt and can’t understand why. How are they to fully understand what lifting or putting more restrictions on Iran will do to gas prices or cause fuller ripples in the Middle East? How about Trump’s slogan, “America First”? It may sound good to working Americans, (sound bite) but what does it really mean, and how will this attitude reflect on the cost of consumer goods? Do you know? Does the media tell us the truth? And if they do, whose truth are they repeating?

Lippmann didn’t just argue against what we now term “low informed voters”, he was dismayed to see one-issue voters; those who would vote for a candidate based on his or her stand on a certain issue alone. These voters, Lippmann argued often voted against their overall self-interest. A good example of this is when a voter decides on a candidate based on his or her anti-abortion stand. This is hot button issue today that sees mass voting for politicians who want to limit or outright strip away abortion rights on one hand, and on the other, making it hard to get access to birth control, leading to more abortions. Where is the logic is this?

It was in this argument that I stopped mentally arguing against Lippmann’s ideas. I shut my mouth and opened my mind. As the hosts of Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know gave more and more examples of how one-issue voting can cause over-all damage to democracy I started to form a thought experiment; what if only those who are truly informed on all things that mattered voted? Of course the first obvious problem that comes from this thought experiment is figuring out who decides who can vote and do they have democracy’s best interest at heart?

Recently Bill Maher had guest Dambisa Moyo on Real Time with Bill Maher. Moyo is an international economist and author who analyzes the macroeconomy and global affairs. She has witnessed democracy in several forms and is in the same camp as Lippmann. One of her suggestions regarding voting is to test voters, much like the test we give to new citizens. She was criticized for suggesting what seemed like a type of Poll Test. Something the Southern states tried to employ to weed out African American voters. No, I don’t think the answer is to test people; after all voting is a right and we should be able to freely exercise that right without restrictions. But Lippmann and Moyo’s view does beg the question; must you vote? I say no. Not if you vote based on a gut feeling, or one-issue without doing some homework and reflection on what your vote will do for your over-all self-interest as well as the country’s.

If you can’t bring yourself to watch debates, if you can’t take an afternoon or evening to read about candidates and how their views and voting record will effect us all, please stay home. Don’t vote. That is the very least you can do for our country.

Now, it’s your turn to weigh in. Tell me what you think.

Works Cited

New York Times As Fewer Americans Serve, Growing Gap Is Found Between Civilians and Military
https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/us/civilian-military-gap-grows-as-fewer-americans-serve

Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know, episode Is Democracy Impossible (May 2, 2018)

Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion. 1922 https://wwnorton.com/college/history/america-essential-learning/docs/WLippmann-Public_Opinion-1922.pdf

Walter Lippmann. Britannica.com https://www.britannica.com/biography/Walter-Lippmann#ref101232

Ho,ho,ho, Who’s Really Waging the War on Christmas?

Christmas Warriors

Once again tis the season to be jolly, and once again, tis the season for the annual “War on Christmas” conspiracy drivel. With Bill O’ Reilly out of the picture it was anyone’s guess on who would pick up the battle cry this year. No, I’m joking. We all knew it would be none other than the deranged orange clown himself.

At a speech Wednesday in Missouri to publicize the GOP tax overhaul, Trump kicked off his remarks by saying: “I told you that we would be saying Merry Christmas again, right?”. To quote the idiot-in-chief, WRONG!

There has never been a time in modern history in which we the people of the United States of America have been prohibited from saying the phrase “Merry Christmas”. Hell, there is nothing stopping you from yelling from the rooftop on Easter! You can say it any time you like for as long as you like. In fact the magazine Mother Jones reported a few days ago that since 1970 the use of the the word “Christmas” has gone up by 50%, while the use of the word “Holiday” has only gone up by 33%. If there is a war on Christmas, the other side is losing.

If by “Christmas” you mean the holiday that includes garish decorations and a sea of presents (followed closely by a mountain of debt) then, no there is no war on Christmas. We can point to the facts to prove it.

Fact: In the last decade the Christmas season has made its way into November, starting with Thanksgiving evening. For you die-hard Christmas warriors, malls across America are opening their doors earlier and earlier just for you. No longer do you have to wait in dark of night to storm the gates to plunder and pillage for bargain prices! The doors open at 6pm and stay open almost all-damn night. If you don’t want to battle for your Christmas spoils you now have the convenience of shopping Black Friday (now Gray Area Thursday) online. Missed it? Don’t worry, you get a second chance the following Monday, now called “Cyber Monday”.

Fact: During the Christmas season consumer sales damn near double what they are for the rest of the year. CNN Money reports that this year’s online sales hit 5 billion dollars. That’s right folks, in less than 24 hours, 5 billion dollars was spent on Christmas gifts (I have no doubt some of that money was spent for other reasons, but not as much as it was on Christmas). So to say there is a war on Christmas is laughable.

I know, I know. Some of you are still not convinced. You cling to the argument that the store clerks no longer say “Merry Christmas” and Starbucks sell “Holiday” cups and for some reason I cannot fathom, this offends you; all I can say is that if this is the worse thing that happens to you this season, count yourself blessed.

While you may not hear “Merry Christmas” from the clerk who waits on you, do you know what you do hear throughout the store? CHRISTMAS music! You can’t get way from the fucking noise! You hear it in the bathroom, in the food court, in the dressing rooms, and at the check out station. You are hearing the words “Merry Christmas” over and over again. Can someone please come up with some new Christmas music?! How many times can we hear Jingle Bells without going crazy?

Just because the clerk doesn’t say it, doesn’t mean the store is boycotting Christmas, it simply means the clerk is being inclusive and sensitive to all the December holidays even if you and the damn music are not. I know it may be hard for you to conceive, but there are other winter holidays besides Christmas; yet is Christmas music all season long! Remember our religious freedoms? They extend to all religions, not just yours.

Speaking of religion, let’s get the heart of the conspiracy. It’s not the consumer driven Christmas that Christian conservatives are worried about. They know good and well that capitalistic Christmas is under no attack. It’s the idea that Christian values are under attack. Again, WRONG!

According the World Atlas.com, The United States tops the list of Christian nations with 226,886,418 Christian living in the country. While other Western countries are believing less and less in a deity who cares about our daily lives and who wins the Superbowl, America is holding steady at 70% of those who do. As of 9am this Sunday morning no one is stopping you from going to church or praying for that big win. In fact here in America you can even start your own brand of Christianity. Joseph Smith started Mormonism, and Mary Baker Eddy started Christian Science. Both were very unconventional Christians. True, Smith was killed, but lets face it, he pushed a lot of people for a lot of reasons to the breaking point. The fact remains, Mormonism is proof that anyone can start a church. John Oliver the host of Last Week Tonight, did just that last year in order to prove this point.

If we are talking about a war on Christianity then I have to agree that there is a grain of truth to the argument. But I would argue that the war is being waged by the vary people, like you, who demand everyone say “Merry Christmas” as you ride store to store seeking the best possible deals in order to cram as many presents under the tree as you can. How Christian like is this behavior? Lets see what Jesus has to say about your shopping habits shall we?

So, the next item on my Christmas list is..

John 2 15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Luke 14 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Mark 10 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Do I have to go on? Because I can. It seems he has a lot to say about possessions and worldly delights.

In other words Jesus, the Savior of Christians, wants you to give up your worldly goods. Let me say that again- Jesus is quoted as saying that having and loving worldly goods, is the opposite of loving God.

There is nothing in the Bible that has Jesus demanding that you gather up your family under a well-lit carcass of a dead tree in order to pay tribute to your materialist needs. Again he is preaching the very opposite of what has become known as the “Christmas Christian Season”.

Can you imagine what he would think if he ever did return and it just happen to fall on his birthday? I doubt he’d be impressed.  Heck, tt may well even give him a heart-attack! And he’s gone again..

So the next time you find yourself faced with a store clerk who doesn’t say Merry Christmas, or outraged that your local Starbucks has dared given you a cup that says “Happy Holidays”, ask yourself who is being less of a Christian, you the greedy consumer or the person who is patiently serving you?

Works Cited

The Bible, English Standard version Print.

Works Referenced

CNN Money Black Friday Holiday Shopping 217

Mother Jones War On Christmashttp://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/war-on-christmas-update/

World Atlas.com Christian Nations