Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote or Die

Four phone calls and two voicemails from friends and family requesting you call them back immediately; will never lead to a conversation about Hannah Montana being exposed as a thirty two year old man. This is going to be bad.

I call my brother back. “What happened?”

And that was it. That was the moment my friend Eric died.

He actually died around 9pm the night before, but in the universe inside my head, he was still alive until I got that phone call. Confusion, tears, sobs and a lot of pacing back and forth took place. I was already running late for work. With the proper medicine, I was able to turn into a cubicle zombie who moaned his way to the end of the day.

By Saturday I learned that the wake would take place on Monday, followed by the funeral Tuesday. To accommodate this with my work schedule, I ended up spending the day as a zombie again all alone in my cube on Sunday.

On Monday, I went to work early in order to make it back home for the wake and I would then take the day off Tuesday. My associates expressed their sympathies, but equally if not more fervently, their concern that I get back in time to vote.

Vote? “You think I’m actually worried about voting right now?” Brow furrowed, blood boiled, muscles tensed. It finally became apparent, like some omnipresent force that lurked in the shadows this whole time, and I’ve only now found the right pair of eyes to see it; The Church of Politics.

I’ve never heard of it before, and this was the first term that came to mind, but I’m sure it’s been written about before. All of my original ideas have been pondered and discussed at length by old dusty dead men hundreds and even thousands of years before me. This I’ve humbly accepted. But a quick Google search only brings up articles talking about religion and politics as separate entities, but I did find this excerpt from a discussion forum that is close to what I am hinting at: “Religion and political leadership are so intertwined across eras and cultures because they are about the same thing: performing the miracle of converting unrelated individuals into a group.”

Everyone has become a member of The Church of Politics. You belong to a party, which is like your church, and you stay with that church for the rest of your life. Why? Well because your parents belonged to that church, or maybe it’s because it’s because your parents were Catholic and you’ve now joined a Protestant church in order to differentiate yourself from them. Then of course, if one church has been really popular with the townspeople for some time, they may start to get comfortable and kick up their feet. This leads to sermons that begin to lack in the substance and inspiration that should be feeding the core beliefs of their constituents, who are now in dire need of spiritual guidance (like good social policies). Well if the church in power sits on its ass too long, then those independent parishioners will flock to another church.

The funny thing about these different Churches is that they all belong to the same religion, The Church of Politics, so they all celebrate their biggest holiday every four years on the first Tuesday of November; The Presidential vote. If you don’t vote, it’s as if you skipped Christmas Mass. Straight to HELL!

After many hours of agitated thinking and pondering this discovery, I realized that blasphemy was the only course of action. I was not going to vote, because MY vote didn’t matter.

I realize all the bile and venom this must regurgitate in my readers, friends and peers, but hear me out.

We do not vote for the President and Vice President when we go to the polls, we vote for electors in the Electoral College. According to Wikipedia; “Rather than directly voting for the President and Vice President, United States citizens cast votes for electors. Electors are technically free to vote for anyone eligible to be President, but in practice pledge to vote for specific candidates and voters cast ballots for favored presidential and vice presidential candidates by voting for correspondingly pledged electors … the ticket that receives the most votes statewide 'wins' all of the votes cast by electors from that state.” So by the rules of the Electoral College, since most of Wisconsin (definitely Madison) will be going for Obama, he will get all of our electoral votes. The national populace vote doesn’t count here people; don’t you remember how Bush fucked us in 2000?

Now this is not some sort of nihilistic statement to “screw the system”. I would have just voted for McKain, or Nader if I wanted to be an asshole like that. I just did the math. Obama has more than enough support to take all the electoral votes in our state, without MY vote. I stress the “my” because this is not some argument that ALL voting doesn’t count. I’m thankful that Obama had enough support in this state. If it was a really tight race like 2004, I would have felt more obliged to make a difference, but that pressure just wasn’t there. It was just that “Vote or Die” mentality that seems to have brainwashed everyone around me. I somehow snapped out of it.

One of my best friends since middle school wrapped his car around a telephone pole. What makes things even more confusing is that our friendship became distant after he returned from Iraq. He was in Platteville and I was in Madison, this is true, but he was a different guy from the one I grew up with. I watched from a distance, a very slow decline in who this person was to me. I was making horrible life choices on my own while stories would trickle up from friends about him essentially giving up on life. My friend who shared an on stage seat with me for “Rage Against The Machine’s” Chicago show in 99’, was being chewed up by that Machine.

People change, we all do. It’s just hard to see friends getting stuck in the ruts, especially when you just break free from one yourself and now have the momentum and blind fervor of a man on a mission. I never thought he was a failure; he was just stuck in a rut.

We chatted only two or three weeks ago over Facebook. I was unveiling my plans for my custom distressed textiles to him. We made small talk, and then concluded that we needed to hang out soon. That was it. That was the last communication I had with him. A little bud in what might be a rekindling of an old root system. Just like that, the bud turns to ash, with nothing left but an old and extensive roots of personal history.

After the wake and funeral, I now find myself sitting here with the same mixed bag of feelings. I’ve learned to not try and reason with that which cannot be defined, so I wait, letting things out as they must. Grief spasms, anger ruptures, morose stares. Let it all hang out. This is much more comforting than waiting in line at the polling center.

If you still think it was wrong of me to proclaim that MY vote didn’t matter, then you’ve missed the whole point, and you are a very faithful parishioner. I want to thank all of my friends who helped me over the weekend, and to all those who still made sure to get their vote in as well. I have to also thank the Electoral College’s stupid rules for allowing me to justify my argument. I actually don’t support the system, but tonight is not for banter like that.

Tonight I sit alone, and hope.


Kristin said...

You gotta do what you gotta do.
Obama is ahead by about 4 million votes anyway. Would your one vote really have mattered? Not really. Does it matter that you went to your friend's wake/funeral and spent the time you needed feeling sad, angry, nothing, and anything else you need to feel? I think so.
I know that if I were grieving the loss of a dear friend, the last place I would ever want to be would be in line with a bunch of people.
I'm really sorry about your friend.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to hear about your friend.

Believe you me it's difficult and heartbreaking to watch a good friend's slow decline- trapped on the sidelines.

Without the electoral college the middle of the country wouldn't matter- all of the campaigning would be done in population centers. Wisconsin would NEVER have a candidate stop by for a visit. The issues important to most of the "area" of the country wouldn't matter. It's easy to say your vote doesn't count, but it does. The fact that people vote matters.

Its not my blog so I'll shut the hell up now.

Craig said...

I understand the reasons for the Electoral college, and you are right about it giving middle America a chance to be heard. I also agree that it does matter that people vote, and I myself will vote again many times in the future. I voted in the primary, and I'm glad I did.

This election, this historic moment, is not something I want to tarnish with my own personal feelings. I am thankful and proud of everyone who turned out to show support. All of those proud votes, and the rules of the Electoral College, allowed me to stay home and mourn for a friend.

Your comment is appreciated, and in no way was taken personally. I just want people to understand that my decision not to vote that night, does not mean I feel voting in a national sense does not count.

I realize my vote will always count to someone, or something, but it didn't matter to me that night. Crying, thinking, writing. That was all I wanted to do that night. I was not going to let social pressure and group mentality guilt me into waiting in a public line to vote for a man that had the overwhelming statistics to get there without me.

I did what I felt was best for me, and the world still turns. It can be difficult with our social nature to step back and remember you are an individual, even if you wholly agree with the group you are following.

Again, I want to thank you, and everyone else who voted last night. I can never fully express my gratitude for this.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit. I don't need gratitude. I need action. Action, which the results were the hopes of those that committed it, not the gratitude of the one with a philosophical quagmire. We all grieve, whether in the now or in the past, whether for the dear departed friend or the long lost relationship with a parent, for the mis-opportunities, or for the lost ideals. Action and not the justification of the lack action is what is needed. You can justify all you want, in my universe, I demanded action.


Craig said...

My action was to not act. At no point have I condoned not voting or any political non-participation to others in my article. It was the only choice for my universe, and since you acknowledge you have your own separate universe, why then accost me with the laws that govern it?

The weight of my decision did not come easily. Have you ever told an intelligent friend that you've decided not to vote? Why don't you try it sometime. Just lie to them, like I could have lied about voting. Who would go to the trouble of checking my records? I'm a nobody. But lest I forget that true honesty these days will always have to surmount biases and perspectives of others.

I'm not going to let the fucking guilt mongers, who look at me like a boil ridden invalid for not falling in line with everyone else, take away my right TO NOT VOTE. Just as I have the right TO VOTE, I can also choose not to. That's the beauty and the ugliness of this country, we are free to be ambitious assholes or lazy losers. But it is our choice Goddammit!

I'm sorry I fouled up your day with the shit mist of gratitude.

Craig said...

Now in recent hindsight, I realize that my last reply to stand up for my decision has also been stained with it's own shit-mist of spite and malice. I wouldn't be surprised if it receives a much deserving rebuttal of the same magnitude.

This sticky ball of tangled emotions and thoughts is getting the best of me. My desire to "get it over with" is only making things worse, and now I am beating myself up for not just letting it go, which just takes me further from the goal of feeling better.

So it goes.
So it goes.

Anonymous said...

No rebuttal here my friend. A jest really, to show how and why we can be angry, just as you can. So hold no anger, for I don't.


Craig said...

Thank you Mr/Miss Anonymous. I'm working on it.

I was in a mindset of Crush-Kill-Destroy yesterday. Anger is not uncommon in these circumstances, I know, but it's not as easy to express as tears. Well, for me anyway. Maybe your jest actually helped coax some of it out. ;)