Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Lesser Evil is Still Evil

It isn’t good just because it’s the least evil possibility. It’s still evil. It’s what the Orthodox call “involuntary sin”. This term sounds weird in the ears of Western Christians, but it might perhaps be roughly, loosely, compared with the legal term, “involuntary manslaughter”, which means the defendant did something truly horrible but couldn’t help it. Sometimes the rottenness of this world puts us in situations in which we must try to choose the least awful, least damaging, least wretched thing to do. But it’s still awful, damaging, and wretched! It doesn’t morph into something good. It isn’t even, for those concerned with their moral status, justifiable. Why not? Well, because whose fault is it the world is so rotten that it only presents us with rotten choices? Have we not all contributed to making this world what it is? If we are anything short of perfect, of course we have.

In the coming election, it appears we are going to have some pretty rotten choices. Mitt Romney’s record as head of Bain Capital is at best morally mixed; google it. Newt Gingrich’s record on several things is at best morally mixed. Barack Obama has done nothing whatever to correct the policies of torture or rendition, nothing substantive to correct our broken health care system, nothing to curb our insane drive to secure and consolidate American control of the whole world. (When I was growing up, such an ambition was considered criminal, was associated with Hitler, and was consistently foiled by the likes of Batman or Superman or even – if memory serves, which it doesn’t always – James Bond.) Ron Paul so far appears at least an honest man, to support whom would not be morally objectionable – so far as I know now. Should he be elected (and contrary to popular perception, he is indeed electable), I think we'll still be safe from his more radical ideas, which will remain just that, ideas, because they will be non-starters in Congress.

But if he is not the Republican nominee and we end up having to choose between two crooks, there is another choice, albeit also a flawed one. And that is not to vote at all.

I was brought up to believe, and I still believe, that to vote is my duty as an American citizen, an exercise of a precious right. But that belief presupposes there will be at least one honest candidate. What if there isn't? I'm amazed how many people think a morally bankrupt candidate is in any way qualified to be President of the United States.

If there is no honest candidate, I believe my duty then is to withhold my vote, to refuse to put my support behind any of these white-collar gangsters. (And I do not believe myself qualified to decide which is the worse or which the better. It's like asking whether stealing is worse than lying, or whether avarice is better than lust.)

Would withholding my vote do any good? Probably not. (But if voting won't, either, so what?) On the other hand, just maybe it will. If a certain high percentage of all registered voters don’t vote, then the legitimacy of the election will be in question, which is a good thing. It at least registers our discontent.

As far as I can recall, there is no write-in option on Virginia ballots. But maybe I could just not punch out any of the holes, and write in ink across my ballot, “None of the above”. A lot of people doing that, or writing it in, would also send a message.

Perhaps this would be the least wrong of the available options.

UPDATE: Someone who voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 presidential race has reminded me that a candidate does NOT have to be his or her party's nominee to appear on the ballot, at least in Virginia. Probably everywhere?? 


DebD said...

you said "Should he be elected (and contrary to popular perception, he is indeed electable), I think we'll still be safe from his more radical ideas, which will remain just that, ideas, because they will be non-starters in Congress."

I agree. Look at Obama.. he couldn't even get us out of a war in a timely fashion.

But, one MUST not forget that that the Senate recently pass a bill where they can arrest any citizen and keep them without trial indefinitely. In fact, Obama doesn't like the law because it isn't strong enough!! I think these are much more serious to America than what Paul thinks about foreign policy.

David Garner said...

I usually vote third party. And when people say things like "well, that's just a vote for (insert candidate they think is so awful here)," I ask "well, what's the difference?"

There is rarely a good answer to that last one.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Deb, no disagreement here. I didn't know the reason Obama disapproved of this bill was that it wasn't strong enough! Can you point me to somewhere I can read up on this?


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

David, people consider that a vote wasted. Wrong. A vote is only wasted if it's given to one of two thugs both in the service of the same powers-that-be.

David Garner said...

Exactly right.

Anam Cara said...

I beg to disagree.

If candidate A will do something that will harm 5000 people and candidate B will do something that will harm 15,000 and by your not voting for the lesser of two evils (candidate A) the worse one (candidate B)wins have you not helped inflict the problems facing those 10,000 people who would not have been harmed if candidate A had one?

There is no perfect candidate. We are all human and therefore all sin. So we cannot expect to elect anyone who will do no harm to anyone. That makes our job to decided who will do the least harm and vote for that candidate. In other words, vote for the lesser of two evils.

We will all answer for every idle word someday, and we will also, I am certain, answer for every vote cast or not cast.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Anam, I think I would almost certainly agree with you in normal times.

But here we have the Democrat candidate and the two supposedly front-line Rupublican candidates, each perfectly willing to harm us ALL, for personal gain. None with any character, not a genuine patriot among them. So this is (I hope!) an abnormal time.

Margaret said...

Dear Anastasia,

Please consider the recent USDA hearings in Wisconsin that put farm families in the position of having to defend their right to raise their children assisting on the family farm. The USDA is asserting that children are injured every year in doing work on their family's farm and should no longer be allowed to care for livestock or drive tractor. The Department of Homeland Security has mandated (not a legislative mandate) that all farm equipment must be insured at the same level as interstate big rigs ($500,000 per vehicle) a burden farm families cannot meet. I believe these (and other actions) are leading to government control of the means of food production. Do you know how this impacted the Ukraine between 1933 - 1936? Six million Orthodox Christians starved to death, because they would not follow Stalin's nationalization of their farms. Kyrie eleison, indeed. Do we really want to allow this administration to continue to govern in this fashion? Is your withholding your vote this election going to re-elect a totalitarian tyrant?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dear Margaret,

Yes, I shall indeed consider what you say. (BTW, I have not yet decided to withhold my vote; it's an idea I've been toying with.)

Both these measures you cite seem to me to be designed to drive out small farmers. Big agri-business can afford that kind of insurance on their vehicles; small farmers cannot. Big agri-business has no children working for it; small farmers have.

Yes, may be that to withhold a vote will re-elect the same tyrannicl government. Or it may be that to vote will only succeed in bringing in another equally tryannical government. (It isn't just r even mostly the President; it's the whole government, especially those life-long beaurocrats at the second and third tiers, the people directly under Hillary, for example.)

So I'm not sure there are any clear answers yet. I'm hoping Ron Paul will become a clear choice for the good.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anastasia Theodoridis said...

A tyranny, or for that matter any government, can only function with the consent of the people. The people have to work for it, pay for it, and be willing to die (in Iraq, for example) for it. Otherwise it fails.

Conversely, if the people refuse to work for a government, refuse to pay it anything, and refuse to die for it, then that government cannot succeed.

That of course takes a great deal of courage plus widespread solidarity.