Why vote? Well, because it's important.
It's midterm election season here in the US. These days, that comes with a pretty reliable side of Kind, Yet Angry People (KYAP, for ease of typing) trashing the candidates on the political left, speaking out against the effectiveness of voting, and wishing there were more they could do.
My KYAP friends – and you are my friends, and I am as kind, as angry as you at all of this – there is something you can do if you're frustrated with this entire system.
You can stockpile weapons, find like-minded KYAP, organize, up your off-com OPSEC game, and start killing your oppressors.
That's not the only option, and there are no "magic wands" here. The system of government in the United States is V A S T, and it's designed to slough off pressures and changes from outside. Let's take a moment to partially outline that vastness:
Local government prevents your town from having reasonable protections for cyclists, from having those lovely shops with second-floor living space. Local government lets your police force cosplay as the Military Police they never had the fortitude to become. Local government bans the books in your child's school library, making your children go to the public libraries that local government likely hasn't funded fully in twenty years.
State government prevents you from receiving benefits that might lift you out of poverty. State government makes you fight constantly to protect the rights of the people you care about. State government finances the for-profit prisons that take people from your community and make them modern-day slaves.
ALL of this before we even approach discussing the federal government.
So many bureaus. Committees. Agencies. Regulators. Judges. So many appointees, often holding their positions well past the days when they actually understand the issues brought before them – not that a one of them would admit such.
Government in the US isn't a monster, or a hydra with heads to remove; it is a superorganism, its roots and tendrils twisted through every inch of your life.
And fascists are out there, right now, shouting that only they are capable of giving that superorganism the care it deserves.
My KYAP, the ways we can even affect such a system are few. We're together in the spirit of "real talk", yes? Gathered to tell truths, despite their ugliness and our feelings?
Non-violent protest, if it was ever protected in our nation, is not protected now. Non-violent protest in the United States, in 2022, is no more than a game of "Chicken": we, the KYAP, demanding better; the superorganism, demanding we shut the fuck up, jailing us if we don't. Do the charges stick? Rarely. Does being thrown in a crowded cell for a weekend stop everyone who speaks out? No, not everyone; never everyone.
Can we win this game of Chicken, when one side can decide at any time that we're breaking the rules and will spend the next few days in a literal box? Are the organizers of your protest even choosing a worthwhile venue and target, contextually appropriate to sew discomfort among those responsible for the issue? It's "real talk" time; answer truthfully.
You can, KYAP, choose to lead through kindness. You can reject attempts to change the superorganism, instead working to change its environment. You, personally, can feed someone you don't know; you can share your home with someone in need; you can help someone find a job, prepare for an interview, apply for benefits. Like a doctor in a war zone, you can do your best to keep people alive as everything around them tries to undo your work. Kindness always has value.
The superorganism of government is still being threatened by the cruel. If you decide to view it as an avalanche, your only course of action is an attempt to pull the helpless from its path.
The rise of fascism, of the cruel "caring" for the government that pervades your existence, is not an unstoppable force. To consider it so, to think of it as an avalanche, is to condemn us. It won't respect your game of Chicken, though. It won't respect your beleaguered triage tent. What will it respect?
Well, shocking, targeted, widespread violence, for one. Investigate, find the people responsible for this particular attack on the idea of people thriving together in peace. Kill them. Kill the next five people in line for their positions, so that the sixth chairs get the message.
Friends, I'm subject to our constraints of "real talk" too. I would wish whole swaths of cruel people away if I had the power, but I'm not likely to take up poison, garrote, guns, or explosives to see those wishes become bloody reality. The kindness is stronger than the anger in me. I feel your discomfort with this suggestion; it mirrors my own.
What is left to us? We, angry at the uncaring superorganism of government, wishing it could help us instead of crushing us? Who yearn not for rivers of blood, years of darkness?
One thing, really: informed voting, at every opportunity available.
If you aren't acting to change what seem to be the smallest parts of the superorganism, you are doing us all a disservice. We spoke of the ways local and state governments flex their cruelty earlier, and it was not a comprehensive list.
Hood's hoary sack, local and state government dictate your voting options! Can you not get to your "local" polling place on time? Are the polling hours too short? Have all details of early voting availability been hidden in a locked filing cabinet in the basement, behind a door bearing only a sign that reads "Beware of the Leopard"?
That's your local and state government at work.
We're not past "real talk" yet, KYAP. Few of us want to run for office; we're not jumping with joy at the idea of having fascists smear the details of our personal lives on the walls, pointing and waving like all of our choices are literal shit, just so we can become a more active part of the superorganism. And we just aren't interested in the bland efforts at appeasement that are debates and town hall meetings.
We also can't make uninformed decisions. We can't judge books by their covers; we can't treat candidates of certain backgrounds, genders, or races as well-known faces of a larger monolith of cultural conformity. Debates, town halls, and interviews? Those are dramatic performances, and the actors' skills are a poor factor in trying to evaluate their worth as legislators or adjudicators.
Where, then, do candidates display any truth?
My KYAP friends, they put it on their websites. They offer it to the folks who write voting guides. Those things certainly retain an aspect of performance, but they're faceless performances for nebulous, unseen audiences; they are the dress rehearsals, where lines recited aren't as practiced and polished.
It's important to read them. After reading, it's important to take another look: one where we decide whether questions are given actual answers, where we second-guess word choices and turns of phrase. After all that, it's important to take a third look, attempting to keep The Whole Goddamned World in our heads. An attempt overburdened with context and knowledge, seeking solutions that might actually solve, discarding best intentions.
THEN, informed, we can – must – vote. The game of Chicken that is peaceful protest remains rigged; the number of those among us who would choose violence is small, with many of those people on the side of Harm and Cruelty. None of us, sadly, have a wishing lamp or a magical fish who owes us a solid.
Informed voting is our option. I have my local League of Women Voters website bookmarked; I'm about to look up early voting options for the current election.
Please do the same. Please encourage others to do so. Share your thoughts on the information you find: talk about candidates' statements, look for their "weasel words" together, combine your intellects as you evaluate their proposals.
And thanks for reading this far, my fellow Kind, Yet Angry People. I know I led us past some ugly sights on our journey together. Gratefully, there's still a path to minimizing that ugliness. It's our duty to use it, not to declare it pointless.
– RED (passion aspected)