It will happen this way. You may be talking to a friend. Maybe the first sunny day of summer. And your friend will mention the upcoming presidential election, and you will say something about how you find it impossible to even consider voting for Hillary Clinton, due to her ties to Wall Street, and various coups and military strikes, and her aggressive neoliberal orientation generally. And you will tell your friend that you might not even vote in November, or that you might vote for a third party candidate, or write in the name of a candidate who is no longer running, or who was never running, which might even be the name of a cartoon animal. And your friend will smile, a becoming smile. But your friend will say something like this:
“If you don’t vote for Mrs Clinton, and if you continue to criticize Mrs Clinton for her alleged ties to Wall Street, and the coups and the wars and all that, you will be supporting Donald Trump, and if he somehow wins in November, you will be responsible for that. And how will you feel then?”
Which calls to mind another movie, this one sadly without Max von Sydow, but featuring the very ethical dilemma your friend (along with David Brock and the rest of the Clinton campaign) will be trying to use to emotionally coerce you into actually walking into a polling station and voting for a person who you know in advance is going to do everything in her power to (a) continue to protect and assist the very people who brought us the housing bubble ponzi scheme and subsequent global financial crisis, (b) continue to facilitate the neoliberal privatization of everything and anything the financial sector can get its hands on, (c) bomb, invade, instigate coups in, and otherwise destabilize any number of other countries in order to advance the interests of her neoliberal friends, and so on.
Now, clearly, it’s going to take some serious emotional coercing to get you do that. But no worries, Mr Brock and the Clinton team are already hard at work on that front.
Remember the big revelation scene in Sophie’s Choice, the one where the sadistic Nazi guard pulls Sophie and her two kids aside on their way into Auschwitz and gives her the choice? Sure you do. He tells her she can save one, and only one, of her two young children. To do this she must choose the child she wants to live, and the other child will be immediately taken away to the gas chamber. After some heart-breaking agonizing by the extremely talented Meryl Streep, “Sophie” chooses to save her son, and her seven-year-old daughter is immediately taken away and murdered.
The point of this horrible flashback is, it’s Sophie’s unendurable feelings of guilt that have plagued her throughout her entire post-Auschwitz life, and that ultimately doom her in the story. In the end, she commits suicide with Kevin Kline’s character, and … well, who wouldn’t?
But here’s what makes that scene (and the central episode in William Styron’s novel, which Styron adapted from an account by Hannah Arendt of a similar actual event), so unimaginably sadistic, and just a perfect tactic for Mr Brock and the Clinton team to use to manipulate you into voting for Mrs Clinton in November … or at least shutting up about those $225,000 Goldman Sachs speeches, and the rest of her unsavory ties to the people who want to debt-enslave your kids into perpetuity. See, not only was Sophie faced with a choice between two equally horrible outcomes (i.e. the death of one or the other of her children), she was faced with an even more horrible choice … the choice of whether to choose at all.
This is the real sadism of the Nazi guard’s little game. If Sophie refuses to choose, he tells her she will be responsible for the death of both her children. However, if does choose, she will in effect be collaborating with the Nazis in the murder of one of her children. Which of course is exactly what the guard wants. He doesn’t just want to destroy their bodies, which he could easily do at any time. No, he wants to destroy Sophie’s soul, to emotionally coerce her into willingly participating in his sadistic game, to force her to behave as if he were some sort of merciful god bestowing upon her the chance to save one of her children from a fate he had nothing to do with.
All right, back to your friend, and the Clinton PR team, and the elections now. Fortunately, we’re not talking about Nazi death camps and dead children here. We’re talking about a US presidential election, an extremely expensive simulation of democracy, which the powers that be would very much like you to participate in.
So here’s your Sophie’s choice. You can either choose to participate in the game, and in so doing know that you have actually gone out and chosen to put in power a person who is going to help destroy, or seriously damage, the lives of you and your family, and a lot of other families, for no good reason whatsoever … or you can choose not to participate, because your principles, or your intelligence, or your soul won’t let you.
Choosing not to participate is going to cost you, but you should go ahead and do it anyway, because “what is it to gain the world and lose your soul?” and all that. The simple fact is, we do not have the power to stop the corporate plutocracy from playing its sadistic game, but we do have the power to not humiliate ourselves by willingly participating in it. Let’s remember that Sophie and her kids all ended up dead anyway … it was fucking Auschwitz, after all.
As long as it remains impossible to vote for a candidate that actually represents our interests, stay home, or, better yet, go out and organize, or in any event don’t vote for anyone you don’t actually want to see in office just because Mr Brock or whoever is holding an emotional gun to your head. And please don’t cave in to the pressure to shut up about Mrs Clinton’s record and Wall Street ties and so on. Doing that does not make you a Trump-supporter, despite what people are going to tell you, repeatedly, and what you’re going to read in the mainstream liberal press ad nauseam.
All of this is of course assuming that (a) you’d sooner pull your back molars out with a set of pliers than vote for Donald Trump, and (b) you’re not a member of the elite class that is going to continue to make out like bandits under a Clinton administration, which, if you are, I don’t know why you’re still reading this … unless maybe your conscience got the better of you.