September 05, 2008

Choosing the Evil of Two Lessers

by Brian E. Volck
Months ago, at the beginning of the presidential rutting season, I reflected here on the comment of a Jewish friend of mine, who said he never felt more alien in the United States than at Christmas. I’m nearly with him on that, seeing how far the consumer capitalist Winter Holiday runs from the appalling mystery of the Incarnation. Yet it’s hard to blame this culture and economy from avoiding that unprofitable Jesus business which, in the words of the late great British sitcom, Blackadder, “always spoils the Xmas atmos.” We may still call it Christ-mas, but Yuletide in America makes us all anonymous pagans.

Winter retail festivals aside, what really gives me the Stranger in a Strange Land Blues is election year, especially when the Commander-in-Chief’s job is up for grabs. I try to avoid the daily news industry’s addictive Obamacaine fix, but it appears unavoidable, especially when the conjoined twins of American democracy hold their separate, four day infomercials. Watching the rival camps stir their faithful into righteous frenzies of resentment and indignation vividly reminds me that the American god, whether liberal or conservative, is a golden calf, and not the God who freed us from bondage.

So, once again, my dilemma is this: not whom to vote for but whether, in good conscience, I can vote at all. I wish there were a simple answer. Politicians, I know, are in the business of speaking lies in the service of power, but their decisions affect the lives of millions – sometimes billions – and some politicians, recent history demonstrates, are especially noxious.

Is it only the privilege of the materially comfortable to remain unstained by electoral politics? When so many struggled for the right to vote, is it proper to refrain? EP endorsers Andy and Nekeisha Alexis-Baker have essays in a recent publication from Wipf and Stock, Electing Not to Vote: Christian Reflections on Reasons for Not Voting. I’m told the comments function of this site now works. Perhaps now is the time and this site the place for EP endorsers and assorted lurkers to begin an important conversation.

1 comment:

Denise said...

For the first time in my life, my job "requires" me to stay current with news from the upcoming election-- and my job requires me to use a neutral voice when dealing with angry people sniping. Every day.

I've not spent much time exploring pre-election dread-- I usually pretend to be an ostrich until it's over, talking politics only with those who seem likely to agree with me, surfacing only for major debates. Polarization is the enemy of conversation, and I've lost friends by mis-speaking my mind on issues of faith and politics. I never forget this loss, as I listen and wait and wonder how to pray.

I think you've named something here, Brian-- the stranger-in-a strange land feeling. I'm afraid of what others in my country believe. I'll keep puzzling the dread, fear, wish to hide: I've got another month to be "in" it every day.

I'm not in a quandry: I know I will vote, and I know how. Still the dread is palpable. I'll keep studying it.