So there was an election this week in the United States. I found myself caring more than usual this time around, which still doesn’t amount to much. The women’s health issues and general fucking crazy happening there made it feel more urgent. But as Jakob Augstein says in this really hammer-on-nail commentary, “America has already lost Tuesday’s election.” After reading the piece I couldn’t help but agree. And here some details had me actually feeling involved. I mean, we do consider moving back from time to time, and voting has always been an excellent way of making people feel like they get to participate in the big decisions of their time.
The very first year I lived in a Wagen, I voted by absentee ballot. I remember sitting up on the lofted bed and reading through a long list of candidate names. Besides the presidential candidates, I had never heard of a single one. It made voting for any of them seem ridiculous, farcical. But I checked boxes (no electricity there, let alone internet for me to do quick googles of the candidates), and, miraculously, even managed to send in the papers on time. Of course I’ll never know if my vote was counted or not, but after reading something about how absentee ballots generally end up in the trash, I gave up the last miniscule, thread-bare strand of faith in voting.
Absentee voting is a strange animal. If you’re just gone for a short trip, I can imagine it making some sort of sense. But when you’ve been gone for seven years, become all but abstractly disconnected from the politics of your birth country, well, it doesn’t. Of course, in the country where it might be more meaningful, I’m not allowed to vote. (Strictly speaking I am allowed to vote in local elections but not the big ones. I am not sure if this will still apply when I get my eternal visa this January for being married to the Beard for three years.) Of course the operative word here is might. I don’t really hold much stock in voting, or, as you might have noticed, the entire current political system. Ho-hum.
Either way, I found myself breathing a large, loud sigh of relief when I read that Obama had won. But does it really matter? Augstein doesn’t think so. And at the end of a very long day, neither do I.
“Romney, the exceedingly wealthy business man, and Obama, the cultivated civil rights lawyer, are two faces of a political system that no longer has much to do with democracy as we understand it. Democracy is about choice, but Americans don’t really have much of a choice. Obama proved this. Nearly four years ago, it seemed like a new beginning for America when he took office. But this was a misunderstanding. Obama didn’t close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, nor did he lift immunity for alleged war criminals from the Bush-era, or regulate the financial markets, and climate change was hardly discussed during the current election campaign. The military, the banks, industry — the people are helpless in the face of their power, as is the president.”
“From a European perspective, it doesn’t matter who wins this election. Only US foreign policy is important to us — and Obama is no dove and Romney no hawk. The incumbent president prefers to wage his wars with drones instead of troops, though the victims probably don’t care if they’re killed by man or machine.”
There are some details that will (could?) improve under Obama’s care. But what about the big picture? What about the fact that the planet is still going to hell, that industry is destroying everything we need to live with and without our permission? What about all the wars and death and jesus shit there is so much fucked up stuff going down I don’t even see the point in doing a cursory list. When a candidate runs on a “dismantle civilization” ballot, you’ll find me back at the box.
What about you? Do you vote? Did you hear about the US election and breath a sigh of relief?