There are two statements a person can make in America today that will completely divide a room. I am an atheist, which I am not, and I am a non-voter, which I am. It has taken me a long time to admit this publicly. As I write this my wife only just now found out that I did not vote in the 2008 presidential election. Needless to say she is not happy with me. It's not a matter of not having a political opinion, I just don't see any efficacy in my vote. The response to non-voters is typically angry and visceral. Some of you have either stopped reading, or never even started reading this piece before you hit the comment section below to tear me a new one. Non-voters are considered lazy and apathetic when, at least in my case, we are simply being pragmatic. My reasons below for not participating in presidential elections are fairly simple and straight forward though most will still shout me down.
Nelson Mandela has dedicated his entire life to the ideal of one person one vote. In America however, statisticians and economists would agree that to a person, an individual presidential ballot has virtually zero impact on the outcome. I live in New York City, one of the most densely populated cities in the country. However, due to the fact that New York has not been a red state since 1984 neither Obama nor Romney have placed any concerted effort in courting my vote. At least not in comparison to swing states like Ohio who pale in comparison in terms of populace. To put is bluntly my vote is considered a forgone conclusion. I don't feel that I need to delve into the mockery of the electoral college except to say that it makes the idea of choice an illusion.
Speaking of Mandela, being a black man the vote carries with it an even larger, deeper significance. To the extent that, not until I began writing did my wife know that I did not vote in 2008. The history of the black vote is a history of sacrifice and bloodshed. It is a history appreciate and value deeply. The victory in that struggle was the right to choose, not only candidates but whether or not to participate in the process. American blacks held a deep affinity for the republican party for the better part of a century because of the perceived actions of Abraham Lincoln. Where would we be today if we continued to make those decisions and allegiances based solely on legacy? Would we even have a black president today? I don't believe that the same people who died for my right to vote would fault my absence in a system that I regard as broken.
The most frustrating thing about the election, and for that matter government, process is how it is essentially the world's largest gang fight. Much like the Bloods and Crips it all comes down to red or blue. They majority of my friends and family range from conservative Democrats to uber liberal. The sounds of disdain and disappointment I hear from people who otherwise are all accepting and compassionate, when finding out that someone in their circle is in fact a republican suggests a blind affiliation typical of someone less sophisticated. The Democratic and Republican affiliations serve as superficial blankets that cover a stage of nuance and individuality with the pall of separatism, distrust, and fear. As a spectator I am disappointed, as an American I am embarrassed.
For my position I will be vilified and disregarded. There will be those who agree with me in order to give weight to their own laziness and apathy. My decision is action by absence. My position is not apathetic. I have strong moral and political beliefs that in all reality I want to exercise this Tuesday. The outlet for me to do so however is one built on a an archaic and counter productive system that I cannot participate in with a clear conscience.
This Tuesday, I look forward to watching the election results at a friend's party eagerly awaiting results and speculating on the direction of the company for the next four years as a proud American ready to embrace the victories and accept the challenges that come.