November 4, 2012


Since I was first allowed to vote thirty-seven years ago in 1975, I am seriously considering not voting at all.

As a professionally published writer, I learned long ago that the best stories, whether obviously or subtly, pit good against evil. In 1977, along with a gazillion other people, I saw the very first STAR WARS movie. It was at a time when the country seemed to have lost its way. The Vietnam Thing was over and a creeping malaise spread across a country no longer in the throes of a WWII victory or a civil rights victory. The rights had been granted, the economy was moving and more and more people were going to college as the “computer” boom was beginning.

But as a college student myself, I don’t remember a lot of clear cut “good and evil”. Maybe that explains the malaise.

We needed to see the good Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in White defeat the evil Darth Vader in black. We cheered (because we didn’t KNOW the ending!) and we left the theater (only to return again and again and again!) feeling lifted up, positive and assured that good WILL triumph over evil!

Every kind of fiction – except “literary fiction” – mirrored this clear-cut conflict. It wasn’t about which side won. Reading the newly discovered novels of Stephen King as they came hot off the presses left little doubt that sometimes evil WON! But the forces were always aligned. You could pretty much tell who was “good” and who was “evil” even though the line was blurry sometimes. Westerns, romances, thrillers, mysteries, spy novels, war novels, fantasy, science fiction – all of the stuff regular people read for entertainment and enjoyment had clearly delineated characters who were either mostly good or mostly bad. People faced moral ambiguity enough in real life to want to escape it in their reading.

That moral ambiguity of course extended to politics in all of its guises – from school board politics to presidential races. It seemed to me to be unheard of for a political party of any realistic stripe to claim any sort of total moral high ground. Each party had its strengths. Each party had its weaknesses. We voted – I suppose I should narrow this down and say simply – I voted based on what I perceived would be “best for America” at that time.

I tend to be conservative and I tend to vote Republican. But I also try and vote for the person whose positions, policies and personal integrity indicate that they would be best for the job AT HAND. I have voted Democrats into office: Jimmy Carter, Paul Wellstone and Barack Obama are three that leap to mind. I have voted America’s first (and only) Independence Party Governor, Jesse (the Bod) Ventura into office (after voting him into the Brooklyn Park Mayor’s office a few years before that). I also voted Regan in and both Bush’s. I don’t vote straight ticket.


Except that this year, I am wondering if I should even bother. 

This is the first election I have ever personally witnessed in which the parties campaigning appear to me to have chosen platforms of Good vs Evil.

If the Spirit of the Republican Party looks over my shoulder on election day and sees that I voted for a Democrat or liberally on ANY issue, she would immediately cast me into the Burning Hell of Red Hot Fire.

If the Spirit of the Democratic Party looks over my shoulder on election day and sees that I voted for a Republican or conservatively on ANY issue, he would immediately cast me into the Freezing Hell of Blue Cold Ice.

I do not feel safe expressing ANY opinion I hold in ANY venue ANYWHERE for fear that someone who holds the opposite opinion would instantly and immediately leap on me and gouge my NON-METAPHORICAL eyes out and beat me to a NON-METAPHORICAL bloody pulp.

This election of 2012 appears to me to have become a genre novel when it should be a literary novel. It appears to have taken a lesson from fiction writers everywhere and clearly delineated the side opposing your opinion as EVIL and your side as GOOD.

I don't think that this will ultimately be a  good thing for politics and appears to me to be creating unhelpful input in deciding the politics of a country. The plot that seems to be developing makes me want to stand with my back against the wall in three days and wait for the dust to clear. At least after that happens, I’ll know what I can and cannot say in public.

And yes, for me, this IS exactly as scary as it sounds.


GuyStewart said...

Daniel Gabrielson tried to post this and emailed it to me as well. It did not make it to the COMMENT file, so I copied it from his email and am posting it here:

"Your latest “possibly irritating essay” really hit on something that I had not previously been able to put my finger on about the tone of the current election campaign. By the day before an election, I am ALWAYS sick of the whole election cycle, but this year seems to have hit new lows (at least in my lifetime). I have yet to hear either candidate suitably address the challenges facing our country, or (realistically) provide a blueprint for moving forward.

The only time I recall feeling that our nation was this divided was during the Vietnam war—the difference then was that one could almost tell political affiliation simply by looking at a person (or maybe that was simply my youthful myopia), but now I too am very cautious about voicing opinions—especially since my own opinions vary back & forth across the already-defined party spectrum. I hate the notion that there is a laundry list of positions on issues, & each of us is meant to select list Red or list Blue."

GuyStewart said...

I responded via email:

"THANKS...I was beginning to feel truly alienated from my culture. To know that others are struggling with this election doesn't solve the problem, but it makes me think that I'm not going crazy."