Point #2: Not voting can be a VERY American thing to do.
Let me begin with a story. Several months ago I went to the local demolition derby with my wife and children (another VERY American thing to do, by the way!). We had a great evening of fun. However, there was something that bothered me right at the beginning, something which I have encountered at many public events such as concerts, athletic competitions, etc. Just prior to the derby's start, a man came over the intercom and issued this command: "Alright everyone, stand up, guy's take your caps off, and y'all let's get ready for our National Anthem." Now, on the one hand, I know where the idea behind this comes from: "As an American citizen, you should honor you country and pay tribute to those who fought/fight for this country." On the other hand, this all leads me to ask the following questions: "Doesn't America pride itself on freedom, especially the freedom of choice? And isn't that ability to choose what you are suggesting was fought for? If that is the case, then wouldn't the refusal to stand and not take off my hat be a way of enacting my freedom of choice, and therefore, quite patriotic? Doesn't the command to do this or that suggest that for the moment my freedom of choice has been infringed upon? And if American's are so die-hard about freedom of choice, then why would it make others upset if I do not stand and do not remove my hat?"
I mention this story because I see a similar inconsistency when it comes to voting. In our country, voting has almost taken on a level of sacredness. It is as if those who do not vote have profaned the sacred and should be looked down upon! From my perspective, however, this is something of an infringement on my freedom to choose. In fact, just because one does not choose a Republican or Democratic candidate does not mean that they haven't chosen a specific course of action for very specific reasons. Indeed, the choice not to vote is a choice in and of itself. And in a climate where folks talk about choosing between the lesser of two evils, NOT voting can be choosing no evil at all! And that choice is a choice that people should not be badgered over or beaten up about. Peer pressure should not win the day when it comes to voting, no matter how cool MTV or other organizations try to make it seem.
It is not the case that all who choose not to vote are acting civilly irresponsible. It is not the case that all who choose not to vote are simply lazy. It is not the case that all who forego the ballot box are, as Edmund Burke once said, "letting evil triumph" because they are not doing good. Indeed, voting for evil would be a chief factor in helping or letting evil triumph! This really gets to the heart of what I'm trying to say here, namely, that choosing NOT to vote can be a good, moral, civilly responsible, and God-glorifying thing to do. Just as well, it can be a VERY American thing to do. After all, forcing or guilt-tripping or coercing someone to vote is a direct infringement on their freedom of choice. Commanding that someone take a certain course of action such as standing, removing the hat, pledging, voting, or doing something against their conscience can be tyranny clothed in piety and moral uprightness.
Certainly, some are probably thinking thoughts along the lines of, "But in the past, so many have struggled to get the right to vote and your comments here fly directly in the face of that! Who are you to something like this?" While I am well aware of the struggles that many folks have undergone to get their voting rights, especially women and my African American brothers and sisters, I am also aware that it is the "choice" to exercise that right or not that is what is most important. Indeed, if all Americans were forced by the government to vote, there would be a great sense among the populace that our freedom of choice has been impinged upon. To be sure, if there is an election where I feel like I can stand alongside a candidate, I will. This election, however, is NOT one of those times for me and I refuse to let my freedom of choice be manipulated by arm-twisting or guilt-tripping.
As a Christian, particularly an evangelical of the Arminian stripe, I place a high premium on the fact that God himself has given us as humans the freedom to choose. I do not believe in using that choice for evil or for using it to manipulate others (thus, I am NOT "pro-choice" when it comes to an issue like abortion, for example). Again, when that occurs we begin to fall into the downward spiral that leads to tyranny. So, while political pundits go about trying to make it harder for some to vote, and while certain parties continue to engage in games of voter fraud, both parties can rest assured that in this election, neither of them will have my vote. I will not buy into their hate-ads, political-spin, and monopoly on our political process. Instead, I will uphold my highest and most revered right in this country, that is, the right to choose. And my choice is NOT to vote.
(Please NOTE: I am currently taking a break from Facebook and will NOT be commenting on responses to this post made there.)
Other posts in this series: Pt. 1