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"You're not evil, are you?"

Advice for the Votelorn

by GREG KOBAYASHI-MCBRYDE

I’d like to give some advice to those who are planning to vote in the American election on November 6. Before I do, a couple of caveats: First, no one I have ever voted for has been elected in a federal or provincial election. Mayoral, either. I may have voted for a city councillor or school board member that actually won, but I don’t really remember. Second, you may have noticed I said provincial, not state, election. That’s because I’m not even from the US, but from Canada. Not only that, but I’ve been living in Japan for the past 13 years, so it’s been a long time since I actually voted for anything. So why should you listen to me? Well, I’m clever, that’s why. Trust me. With that in mind, here’s my advice, presented in a convoluted and roundabout way.

Okay, let’s invent a presidential candidate. How about a woman who, because her ancestors were a crazy mix-up of ethnicities (for argument’s sake, let’s say a combination of Han/Xhosa/Cherokee/Irish/Finnish), represents perfectly the American melting pot. Her husband also has an interesting background, so together with him and their two kids, she looks marvellous standing at a podium. As we all know, looking good is important for a candidate, which is why her running mate is a handsome white guy. (Let’s face it, non-white people are scary to most non-non-white people and they’re still just barely a majority in the US.) She’s a former union organizer and lawyer who actually never did any drugs in college (unlike the past three presidents, at least). He’s a former pro-surfer turned inner-city high school teacher who probably still (discreetly) smokes a little weed. Wait, that’d make a great movie; let me write that down.

Now that we know we’ll have great-looking campaign posters, let’s look at what these candidates want to do. They’ll put bankers in jail, bring back Glass-Steagall, except stronger, and reform the Fed. They’ll bring all the troops home from the various wars all around the world (even the secret ones), pay reparations to countries like Vietnam and Nicaragua, and stop the drones. They’ll make a new New Deal, helping to repair failing infrastructure and putting people to work-even artists, like with the original New Deal (making art, not repairing infrastructure, just in case that wasn’t clear). They’ll strengthen the Wager Act and actually enforce it as well as increase the federal minimum wage. They’ll reform the EPA, acknowledge that global climate change actually exists and try to mitigate it, including investing in actual renewable and clean energy (as opposed to things like “clean coal” or nuclear power). They’ll enact a proper single-payer health care plan as well a new daycare plan. They’ll (finally) enact the Equal Rights Amendment. They’ll do all this and more, including addressing every issue that’ll make you happy, too!

All right, do you have this amazing team in your head? Now, what would it take for you not to vote for them? What I mean is, these candidates are almost perfect except for maybe one thing you don’t really like. Unfortunately, for most Americans, for some reason, that one thing would be them not being Democrats or Republicans. That’s a whole other issue, though, so let’s just say those people are stupid and you’re not. You have a GOOD reason to wonder if you should or should not vote for these near perfect candidates.

So, aside from all the good stuff, say these candidates also want to do something stupid. For example, they want to legalize dog fighting, cock fighting, and bull fighting. Would that be enough for you not to vote for them? If I were actually allowed to vote in the US, this would give me great pause. Whenever I watch those TV shows, you know the ones with the real explosions, crashes and fires caught on camera, I always root for the bull or horse when some cowboy gets knocked unconscious at a rodeo. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I’d helped to elect someone who would cause so much pain, suffering and death. That’s me, though, and maybe you are mean and hate animals so this wouldn’t bother you (not that I’m judging). Do you think this would keep you from voting for this near-perfect team?

How about if they are Quakers (like Nixon. Wait, what? Really?) and want to establish that as the country’s official religion-not banning other religions, just making Quakerism first among many. Again, this would be difficult for me since I’ve been an atheist since I was twelve. I know, though, that most people in the US are not, and really, if you’re going to pick a brand of Christianity, you could pick one (or two dozen) that is (are) worse than Quakerism (Richard Nixon not really being the Quakers’ fault). I’m fairly certain, however, that most Catholics would have a problem with this, as well as practitioners of Sunniism, Zen, Judaism, and so on. Since this would require a constitutional amendment that would be almost impossible to get passed (kind of like the above mentioned ERA), the likelihood of them actually carrying out this plan would be quite small. I’m not sure I’d like to take the chance, but we’re talking about you. Would this stop you?

How about something more difficult (for me, anyway). Maybe while they are pouring all that money into renewable, clean energy, they will allow drilling in the ANWR as a stopgap. Depending on the specifics of the plan, and since they are strengthening the EPA, I could probably live with this. I’d feel really bad when the pipeline burst open and spoiled all the nature, though. However, since this small evil is in my mind completely outweighed by the big not-evil, I would probably vote for them. What can I say? I’m a big fan of not-evil and could put aside my unhappiness at the stupidity of drilling ANWR for the greater good. How about you? Would this be enough to put you off?

Now for some audience participation. (That’s you.) Try to think of something that you could just live with, something on the edge of your comfort zone that you’d tolerate because all the good stuff would be worth it. Okay, now try to think of a few things that you totally couldn’t support despite the awesomeness of the candidates. Great, thanks for your participation.

Right, now that you’ve limbered up your mind with some theoretical candidate scrutinizing, weighing all the good vs. a tiny bit of bad, let’s turn the tables. Let’s say you have a choice of a candidate that wants to do a lot of bad things but only a few-very, very few-good things. What would you do then?

Let’s say this new candidate is indifferent at best to unions and cares more about the banksters and their Wall Street minions than he does about working people. He also wants to imprison, without warrant or habeas corpus, anyone he says is a “terrorist,” and his definition is overly broad. He cares very little for the environment and thinks “clean coal” is actually clean. He hates freedom on the Internet, and in real life, too. He wants to run his government with the least amount of openness possible, imprisoning and torturing, or threatening to imprison and torture, anyone who tells any secret that makes his government look bad. On the other, hypocritical hand, he will do nothing to members of his staff that tell secrets that he thinks make him look good. And by “secrets that he thinks make him look good,” I mean secrets that prove he’s a war criminal who authorizes the murder of first responders. What I mean by “first responders” is people who try to help the people who this candidate has ordered assassinated and also people who happen to be hanging around when the bombs dropped (often called “collateral damage” because it sounds better than, say, “innocent people walking to market”). And what I mean by “authorizes the murder of first responders” is orders the deliberate dropping of a second bomb or missile after the first responders have arrived. This is often called a “double tap” because there’s nothing better than making murder sound cool. Not only that, but he wants to murder the mourners at the funerals of the people he’s just had assassinated (often called “being a heartless bastard” because what the hell? A funeral?). And finally, by “war criminal” I mean a goddamned war criminal who should be tried and locked up in the Hague for the rest of his life (and no, I don’t capitalize god; I’m an atheist, remember?). Aside from this badness and much, much more, he does have a not-evil side. He’ll say something nice about gay marriage (but not actually do anything about it; are you kidding?) and he won’t repeal Roe v. Wade (but won’t do all that much do defend it, either). So, would you vote for him even though the evil vs. the not-evil is, well, pathetic?

For those of you who haven’t clued in yet (seriously?), I’m talking about Barack Obama, the current president and one of the candidates in the coming election. I’m sure some people will now be thinking, “But he’s done more than those two slightly not-evil things you listed.” My response is this: 1. This is supposed to informative and amusing; listing more not-evil stuff would make it more not-funny. 2. I could have listed way, way, way more evil things he’s done, too. Way more. 3. What, being a war criminal is not enough for you? 4. Thank you for thinking “not-evil” instead of just “good” because it shows that even though you don’t agree with me, my writing has affected the way you think. Yay me and my persuasive language!

Now look back at the two choices I offered you. One was a theoretical candidate that was awesome but had some slight flaws (and in the current United States of America, most people would never hear about, let alone vote for, her) and the other was an actual candidate who is completely flawed and has some slight not-flaws (and in the current United Sates of America, he will likely be re-elected president). Think about that and how sad it is. (Are you crying? Oh, I’m sorry.) How broken is the state of American politics when the “socialist” Barack Obama is the “progressive” choice and almost no one has heard of the actual Socialist candidate? (It’s Jerry White-no, wait, it’s Stewart Alexander-well, it’s one of those two, depending on what type of Socialist you are and how much googling you want to do.) I bet most people don’t know that a Socialist candidate even exists (and let’s not forget about the Green, Libertarian, Natural Law, etc., candidates). How broken is the race for president when most people think that their only choice is someone they think is awful but with whom they agree on a few points, rather than someone they think is great but with whom they disagree on a few points? It’s super broken.

Let’s look at this another way. (Really? Yes, really. Stay with me.) Your brother is divorced. For the past week he’s been going on and on about his ex-wife and how awful she is, that she won’t let him see his kids, she has an idiot new boyfriend, and so on. Now he shows up at your place, drunk, and he’s muttering something about “that bitch” and “I’ll show her,” and then asks, “Can I borrow your gun?” Would you give it to him?

If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching “The Closer” and “Law and Order,” it’s that you should never, ever talk to the police without a lawyer. That’s not the point of this essay, though. Sorry, I got sidetracked. The other thing I’ve learned is that even if you aren’t the direct perpetrator of a crime, you may still have some criminal responsibility. For example, the driver of the getaway car can be charged with murder even though she stayed in the car and didn’t know that you, her partner, killed someone. (Hey, how could you?) Even more convolutedly, if the security guard kills an innocent bystander as you’re running out of the bank, you and your getaway driver can be charged with murder. So obviously you should kill that half-blind security guard as you’re walking in. No, wait, that can’t be my point, can it? No. My point is responsibility. (Like I said, stay with me.)

Keeping the murder examples in mind, should you go to jail when your drunk brother kills his ex-wife, her new boyfriend, and his two kids with your gun? (Wait, do you mean my brother’s two kids or the idiot boyfriend’s two kids? Does it matter? It’s kids. It’s sad.) Well, you probably don’t think you should go to jail because you’re not smart enough to see that giving your drunk brother a gun is a really bad idea. So how about if it was your neighbour who gave his brother a gun? Should your neighbour go to jail? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Okay, how about making it a bit more murky? The circumstances are mostly the same, but this time your drunk and muttering brother doesn’t ask you anything. He just goes to the closet where you keep your guns, roots around for a few minutes, and then leaves with a conspicuous bulge in the back of his pants (from your gun, not anything else. Yuck!). Now maybe you’re not criminally responsible, but come on, you didn’t even try to stop him or ask him what he was doing. By your inaction, you let him get away with murdering four innocent people. Also, why aren’t your guns locked up? That’s just
irresponsible.

One final example: your brother is at your house and gets drunk. All evening he’s been going on and on about his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. He leaves saying “I’ll show them” or some other threatening phrase. You do nothing. (Again? Haven’t you learned anything yet?) So now when everyone is dead how responsible are you? Probably not criminally, but morally? You knew he was drunk, and he was making threats all night. You also knew he had a gun in his glove box and didn’t even bother calling his ex-wife to warn her, let alone try to stop him. (Also, you let him drive drunk. What’s wrong with you?)

What I’m getting at is this: When you know someone is going to do something bad and you do nothing, or you help him or her to do it, how responsible are you? I know that many people take responsibility for almost nothing, because, you know, “It’s not my problem.” I’m the type of person, though, that when I see some sort of crap in the middle of the road, I’ll stop my bike and move it to safe place most of the time. When I don’t, because I’m late for work or whatever, I usually feel a little guilty. I think it’s my responsibility to fix things that are dangerous to other people if I can.

Now here’s the point I’ve been laboriously shambling towards (finally!): If you vote for Barack Obama, how responsible are you when he has innocent people (or not innocent but not-proven-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt-guilty people) assassinated? Maybe if you voted for him in 2008 you could feign ignorance of his murderous intent; he did, after all, win a Noble Peace Prize. (What? Really? WTF?) Now, however, you have no excuse. You know he is, by any definition, a war criminal. You know he has 16-year-old American citizens murdered because he doesn’t like their parents. You know he retroactively makes criminal activity legal for his friends and legal activity criminal for his enemies. You know he has American citizens tortured just for allegedly leaking information, not to mention countless other people around the world for countless alleged crimes. You know he kills mourners at funerals. You know he goes on secret panda hunts in China. (That last one may not actually be true)

You know all of these things, so what’s your responsibility if you vote for Obama? When he kills more four-year-old girls in Waziristan, how responsible will you be? When he murders a mother and father because they had the temerity to attend their son’s funeral, how responsible will you be? When Obama gets countless Internet sites shut down because he doesn’t like them, how responsible will you be? When he puts your sister in jail and tortures her with solitary confinement because she won’t testify at a grand jury, how responsible will you be? In my mind, you’re very responsible. If you vote for him knowing that he will do all of those terrible, terrible things, you’re basically saying, “I don’t care if you assassinate all the men between the ages of 16 and 45 in a village and call them ‘combatants.'” Seriously. (I’m sorry for becoming serious all of a sudden after being irreverent for so long.) That’s what you are saying. You’re telling him, “It’s okay. Kill people in other countries with little to no proof of guilt in any crime.” To me that’s just like giving your stupid, drunk brother a gun to kill his ex-wife; you’re complicit in her murder. Let me paraphrase: if you vote for Barack Obama, the next time he commits yet another war crime, you’ll be complicit. You’ll be a war criminal, too. Don’t worry, though (because I’m totally sure you were worried [and yes, I've become irreverent again]); the chances of you being charged in the Hague (let alone Barack Obama [or George W. Bush, for that matter]) are very, very small; so far, they have only charged people the West doesn’t like. Still, morally, that vote is blood on your hands (not literally, figuratively [man, I wish people would stop using "literally" incorrectly]).

Let me put it another way. (Again? Sigh.) This time I’ll be less long winded and more direct. (Oh, thank goodness!) People will tell you that voting for Barack Obama is voting for the lesser evil. It’s not. It’s voting for evil.

You’re not evil, are you?

Greg Kobayashi-McBryde has lived near Tokyo Disneyland for more than nine years but has only been there twice. He teaches English to various people with varying levels of ability and interest. In the summer he likes to ride his bike around, pitch his tent beside the ocean and take pictures. He can be reached at: smallgrovegreg@gmail.com.