Not Voting Is A Vote For?

Years ago when my husband Charles and I moved to Nashville, we were feted, intro’d to the Vanderbilt Medical Center community. As I mingled, the vice chancellor’s wife approached. “Have you found your church home?”

“My what?”

“Your church. The church you’ll attend.”

Whoa, get me outta here, I thought, then shook my head and said, “No.”

She made suggestions.

A few days later, she sent snail mail, with more recommendations. Bible verses decorated the hand-written letter. Following this overture, she invited me to join Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and said the next class would be devoted to a particular book of the Bible. (I can’t recall which.) I do however remember telling Charles this would be like college, coursework—interesting, fun.

Females only, we sat in the auditorium of a large church and heard a sermon delivered by a charismatic speaker before breaking into small study groups to answer questions about the week’s reading. One morning, I sat next to a chatty woman who talked about a party she’d attended, a terrible party she said. I asked, “What’s that?”


I said, “I’ve heard that’s a fabulous party. You know, it raises money for people living with AIDS.”

“Just a room full of fags,” she said.

Feeling as if my head would explode, I was in her face with: “Don’t. You. EVER. Say. Anything. Like. That. To. Me. Again.”

A week later, I sat in the auditorium as the leader’s message veered to the election and the necessity of voting Republican. This, along with the previous week’s “fags” remark was my calling, “Uncle.” (At the time, I thought there was a real difference between the two mainstream political parties.)

Not long after, Charles and I were at a dinner. The vice chancellor’s wife was at my side, insisting I return to BSF, telling me the leader disapproved of my defection. So many women, well over a hundred, yet central command knew I deserted. How creepy.

Then, one evening, Charles and I entered a restaurant, saw the vice chancellor and his wife and stopped to chat. Soon, she brought up BSF, something about the next class, and asked if I’d be interested. I said, “In a word, no.”
As we moved along, my husband said, “Did you have to be so abrupt?”

“I did.”

Why’d I tell you this? Because yesterday near the grocery store, a woman said, “Are you registered to vote?” I smiled, nodded yes, and was smack dab in a memory, the church home question and then reminiscing about BSF. Yes. Yes is the answer I should have given when asked if I’d found my church home.

To the vote devotee, I could’ve said:

“Yes, I’m registered to vote, but what’s the point?”


“So, you genuinely believe your vote matters, amounts to anything except being counted?


“Which candidate do you think actually is the lesser of two evils?

Yet, I didn’t. I just said, “Yes.”

Because I’ve engaged in the futility plenty of times–both the futility of voting and the futility of defending my position: that the system is corrupt and participation in the vote is consent to corruption.

Run-on sentence alert: I simply cannot with clear conscience enter The Polling Place and engage in the myth of voting, an act posing as the democratic process, when human rights violations occur daily here at home with a government conspiring against its own people (no more Officer Friendly, but instead a militarized police force), when those elected to represent the interests of the people instead advocate for Wall Street and the contamination of our ecosystem with toxins, as well as the contamination of our consciences with war, when those elected to represent our interests oppress and terrorize The Other through invasion, occupation, the hum and hit of drones, state-sponsored torture, and an American exceptionalism mission statement.

If I believed the system weren’t thoroughly degraded, had a sliver of a chance at redemption, I’d vote for Jill Stein.

A few friends and family members tell me I’m wrong. Tell me not voting, or voting for Stein, is a vote for Trump.

To some, I say, “Yeah, and not voting, or voting for Stein, also might be a vote for Clinton.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: