So, there's no election I know of coming up or anything (though I'm sure there's one somewhere), but my slow-processing brain has been filtering through some discussion that happened in the build up to the recent one in the U.S., both in the blogonoosphere and in real life.
Fans of voting talk about non-voters as if they are by definition unengaged. They're usually pretty disparaging about it in one way or another; they'll talk about how so many people "don't even bother to vote," or they'll say that if you don't even vote, then you have no right to "complain" about the way things are. There's always that "even" (or something equivalent) there, implying that voting is somehow a minimum threshold for involvement, that if you don't even vote, then surely you can't be doing anything else.
Which is of course nonsense. It is, shockingly, very easy to not vote while simultaneously working towards meaningful change. On the other hand, in my experience many people find it even easier to just vote and think that that takes care of their responsibility to "get involved." The reality is that voting is like going to church in a lot of ways, and one of those ways is this: you can do it or not do it, according to what makes you feel best, but either way it doesn't make much difference here in the physical world. It's everything else you do in your life that matters.
So, I've been thinking about this stuff, and in the midst of my thinking came a bunch of posts about Ralph Nader. And I have no particular fondness or, uh, disfondness for the man, but it occurred to me that most of the people who get all het up about voting are staunch Nader-hating Thanks Ralphers, and that a lot of these same people have a fetish for grudgingly allowing that they would have a lot more respect for the guy if he would do anything in between elections, that just running for office every four years and not doing a single other thing just makes him seem hungry for attention*. Which is a lot like that whole thing about "Well, you don't hear any Muslims denouncing 9/11 now do you?" in that what you know is limited by what the media is willing to tell you and by what you're willing to seek out beyond that, and also in that it's an observation really only very tangentially related to anything important. But aside from that it's just awfully goofy coming from this crowd of voting-is-a-holy-obligation sanctimony machines.
So, I have to vote, or else it means that I just can't be bothered to care or to get involved. But if anyone worth voting for** comes along, they need to stop presenting themselves to be voted for and do other things that really matter.
Moral of the story: shut up and endorse existing power.
*Unlike, for example, Obama.
**You know, in a hypothetical world where this is a possibility