Last week Russell Brand, in a BBC interview, raised a lot of eyebrows by calling into question the legitimacy of voting. He talked about the brokeness of the system and the relative banality of the process.
I saw lots of good Facebook conversation (which seems rare these days) about the clip and it admittedly poked me in an old bruise.
You will want to watch the clip. It is 8 minutes of good exchange and Brand is a surprisingly effective and thoughtful spokesperson.
The reason that this clip got under my skin is because, up until the last US election, I too had never voted. Unfortunately I did not so for the same reasons as Brand – but none the less, the streak came to an end and I have a little bit of buyer’s remorse.
On one hand, I am happy that I voted in a local election. We had some stuff related to funding education that I am very happy to say passed by a narrow margin and I like to think that I was on the right side of that one.
Then there is the Obama presidency.
It is important to understand that I had never voted because I had bought into an odd descendant of the Lutheran ‘two kingdoms’ idea that the kingdom of the world as one thing and the kingdom of Heaven as another. Through a long process that started with my reading Walter Wink‘s work on ‘Powers’, I emerged from that bifurcated construct.
Having no reason not to vote, and knowing the historic emphasis of people’s fighting for the right to vote, I cautiously waded into the voting booth. I am glad that I did so and it has been a good lesson in limited effectiveness.
Last week Cornel West (on the Smiley & West podcast – minute 8) said that the Obama presidency has been marked by three things and will be remembered in history by them:
- it is a drone administration
- it is a National Surveillance administration
- it is a Wall Street administration
That is certainly not what I voted for. That does not represent my hopes for him. I don’t sense this is what most people wanted or expected when they voted for him initially.
This holds a valuable lesson in measured expectations for me. Do I want to go back to my old ways of sitting on the sideline in protest or apathy? Probably not.
Voting is important at some level. Voting, however, should hold just as much weight as what gifts I got for my family last Christmas or what I ate for Thanksgiving last year. I want to keep doing both of those things. I find them both very important. I just don’t think that are so influential as to change the world.
Voting is often choosing the lesser of two evils. In the age of Citizens United especially, the choices that we have in candidates are immediately people who have made concessions to big business and corporate interests. That is never going to deliver the results that I would truly be excited about. On the other hand, until we get real immigration reform, somebody is going to be driving the ship and I am not willing to abandon the process altogether … in Jesus’ name.
I would love to hear your thoughts – especially on the Russell Brand clip or the Cornel West summary.