Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Through the eyes of a non-voter

Things can get pretty lonely for non-voters in the months leading up to a major election. Irregardless of why they choose not to vote, the fact remains they are still a minority and often the target of discriminatory attack (e.g. Chris Matthews). Personally, I can attest that this experience, while difficult, provides an opportunity to better empathize with all different types of minorities.

Empathy is not synonymous with sympathy. Sympathy acknowledges pain. Empathy understands pain. To empathize with someone you must have either shared an experience or be able to put yourself in another's shoes.

For some, the inability to understand why someone chooses not to vote leads to outright emotional attacks and, in rare cases, physical assault. I would like to offer the following thought experiment (inspired by the closing arguments from A Time to Kill) to those who cannot understand why myself, and thousands of others, choose not to participate in elections.

First, close your eyes. Scratch that. First, read through the instructions, remember them, then close your eyes and perform the experiment.

Imagine a company or product that you are so opposed to that you refuse to buy the product, irregardless of cost. The reasons you oppose them are irrelevant. What's important is you think of a product that you offends you so much that the mere thought of the existence of such a product makes you sick to your stomach.

Now imagine you are forced to not only use, but pay for, that product because a majority of the population approves of it. Every two-weeks your paycheck is deducted for a product that you oppose. If you choose not to pay, you will go to prison. If you resist arrest, you will be shot. The only way to escape is to leave all of your friends, family, and property behind to a territory outside the enforcement. Escape may be futile, however, as the enforcing agent could choose to track you down and claim you still must pay.

How does that make you feel?

Remember that the next time you discuss politics around a non-voter.

Addendum: Non-voters don't have a right to complain?

It is fashionable to say to the non-voter (or third-party voter), "you didn't vote so you have no right to complain!".

First and foremost, if you are making this argument then you are misusing the term "right". Complaining is a form of free-speech. It is a natural right (i.e. one that can never be taken away except through force). I highly doubt the people you use the word "right" in this argument actually mean that, because you did not vote you should not have the right of free-speech. The more appropriate word, therefore, would be basis, or justification, for their argument.

With that settled, is it still correct that the non-voter has no justification to complain?

Recall the thought experiment from above. By this reasoning it follows that you have no right to complain if you are forced to buy that product.

I could provide a lengthy argument to prove that its the voter who has questionable basis for complaints, but I think George Carlin put it best (warning: language):

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