I had a good discussion with my wife about voting after last week's post. We're just coming off the awful news of Texas' effective total ban of abortion and, again, Texas' severe curtailing of voting rights. And she asked me if I really believed we shouldn't vote, in the face of that. Put simply, yes. But given time and space–hey, this post–I think that it's not altogether a waste of effort.
First, let me begin by saying that W/I is not some sort of absolute code for how to survive a collapsing system. I don't have that, and I doubt there is one. If you find something useful that doesn't dovetail with what I say here, so be it. We're allowed to disagree–vehemently, even. My own father thinks you should holster a pistol inside your waistband and I think you should limit, as much as possible, the chances of shooting yourself in the femoral artery. To each their own.
But, here is my argument against voting. Put pat: we've all been voting all this time, right? And yet here we are. What makes us think more voting is going to get us anywhere new? We are crushed, election after election, by the defeat of our chosen candidates (Bernie *kisses fingers, touches sky*) only so that the worst of our enemies or the worst of our supposed allies gets elected. We burn so much time and energy in this machine–we waste so much mental energy thinking about these elections, weighing ourselves down with them, getting caught up in the media cycle, when they've yielded us what? A temporarily forestalled doom? The idea of the Green New Deal? When we look back at Democratic presidents, do we not see effectively the same records as the GOP? Are drone strikes suddenly not carried out? No. The war machine continues. Our labor continues to be exploited.
The pithy, memelike statement "If voting made a difference, it would be illegal" applies here–and before you say, "But Eric, they are making it illegal!" is actually my point. If, on one hand, we have an act that borders on irrelevance–particularly on the federal scale–and on the other you have a machine that is going to crush you if you make a difference, then we find ourselves with an inevitability. The 2020 election brought forth an enormous groundswell of effort–particularly from Black women–that saved us from four more years of Trump. That's not nothing*. I do not want to minimize those efforts. But in response, states across the country are effectively outlawing that very groundswell. So, the people that we as a nation/state/county have elected decided to make it more difficult to elect other people, and your solution is to vote, what, harder? Are we supposed to squeak through a victory before the system closes the door on change forever? Are we supposed to believe that will actually work? The answer to a larger groundswell is that fascists–wherever they enter the political sphere–will push back harder. If you think one big vote will cast them out forever, then you don't understand American politics. The country will swing back their way, and they'll drop the axe.
*Children are still in cages, there's been little action on climate change, we haven't really moved the needle on refugees, and COVID is still a major issue–it's...not what we were hoping for.
It is my contention that we are no longer in an era in which an action condoned by the state can change the state–if we ever truly were in such a period. Years ago we were told we faced the last Republican presidents due to the shifting demographics of the nation–and yet, they have inexplicably (not really) maintained their hold on power. If we are to expect change, we must do something different. This is not to say that voting is completely without use–I think it can remain a tool in our toolbox–I just don't think we can expect the thing we've done for years to suddenly yield a different result. I don't want millions of leftists to devote their energy to some campaign only to see it diluted or defeated. I would much sooner we use that energy to benefit people outright, rather than through a rigged system. There are more and more people shifting left from the mainstream political apparatus every day, and we should be working with them to build something new–even if that something is hunkered below the crumbling shell of the old.
In the end, I simply don't believe that this system, as good as it may have seemed (to the rich, the white, the land-owning men), will reward efforts made toward the progress we desire. The system does not want bodily autonomy, it does not want racial equity, it does not want to dismantle capitalism in order to save the planet. The people in power will occasionally hand us a little victory, as a treat, and expect us to swallow a shit sandwich after. That won't do. We're on the precipice of collapse, and we cannot waste our time and energy working within a system that expects our best efforts to be those which it deems acceptable. If you want to vote, vote. But don't let that be your only action. Don't let your resistance be one upon which the system smiles.
Sanity at the End
It is very, very easy to get overwhelmed these days. We are surrounded by bad news–sometimes surrounded by worse than the news–and in between the fires and flooding we're still expected to live, and work, without falling to pieces. This guidance may seem like nothing, but it is an intentionally small thing to get you through, because small things fit more places, and sometimes that's all the room you've got:
Find, through the day or the week, one good thing you can do. This can be a thing toward preparation, like planning out next year's garden, or it could be something unrelated, like–seriously–buying a pint of ice cream to share with someone you love. It doesn't necessarily matter what this thing is, provided it is a *good* thing. And I leave good up to your interpretation.
Whatever your good thing is, do it with intention, with the idea that this thing is a nimbus of peace against all the terrible shit we're dealing with. It's got to be a resting place for you. Carve that time out of the rest of your day. However long it may be, whatever it is, this thing is a moment that cannot be taken away. Here's my good thing:
My wife and I got chickens over the summer. We built a coop (well, my brother-in-law mostly), put up a run, and raised three chicks while also taking in a blind hen named Petunia. Petunia is a dream chicken; she's beautiful, she's sweet, she lays huge eggs. But about three weeks ago now, we found Petunia in the corner of the coop, quiet, head crooked down to the ground. She likely didn't eat on her own for days. We took her inside, fed her and watered her, took her to the vet. Not a lot of luck.
Last week, I came home from work in a rainstorm. We've had the wettest August I've ever seen, here in central Ohio. During a pretty rough spat, thunder rumbling, I took Petunia from the brooder, held her in my arms, and fed her. I gave her water. We sat together in the kitchen, on the tile, mug of water and little cup of seeds, with the rain pattering at the windows. In that moment, I was helping my beloved 'Tunia. I made her feel safe. And that, for a little while, made me feel safe. From storms here and to come.