Friday, July 29, 2016

Wasted Booth

I have said it before and it has never been more true -- I am not a political person. Fact is, politicians are all liars and the political system is corrupt. Even the honest politicians are liars; it isn't always intentional but the exigencies of politics demand it. The only people who can make it in the system are those who have, at some point, compromised, or changed to appeal to one group or another. In other words, lied.

So I generally look towards elections with a sense of distaste and dread. I live my life driven by something someone once told me: no matter who gets elected, the next day I will have to wake up, go to work, do my job well and come home. Sure, some of the details might slowly change, but my day-to-day existence will be pretty much the same. The upcoming presidential election, though, has driven me to take a pretty loud and firm position.

I am strongly considering voting for a third-party candidate.

Honesty moment -- this wouldn't be the first time for me. In certain previous elections, when the outcome was foregone, I felt that I could best use my useless vote by helping pad the numbers of a third party so that it might get a touch more recognition from the major party platforms or might earn a spot on a national stage through federal matching funds. But in this election there is a chance that I will vote for a third party because I have to.

I have told this to people. That's mistake number one. One should never discuss politics with anyone ever. Nothing comes of those conversations in the way of persuasion.

All that results is animus.

That's a fact, look it up here. I usually get people saying that my third party vote is equivalent to 'throwing my vote away.' Often, the statement is made with a tone of exasperation and frustration, like I am some protesting child who doesn't realize that cutting off my nose to spite my face won't make anyone else smell any better, or something like that. The details are unclear, but they don't like it. So I am going to present my argument for voting third party -- not to convince you to do so as you are free to vote whatever your conscience demands, but so that you can see that I come to my potential decision after a reasonable and logical process, not capriciously. [As a side note, in order to keep my personal reasons nice and vague, I will be eschewing particular examples...people seem to think that, when confronted by details, if they can argue the details, they have demonstrated a flaw in the underlying thinking. So I have specifics but I am withholding them.]

Point the first: The claim that I am wasting my vote is flat out wrong. Even were I only voting in order, as stated above, to increase visibility and awareness of a third party, if that party represents who I am and what I believe, how can that be a waste? Why should anyone ever have to apologize for participating in the process honestly? I am not a politician that I should have to lie to make some statement.

Point the second: I truly believe that we, as a nation, are not being best represented by the iterations of the two major parties which exist now. I am not necessarily against a two party system nor do I think that 3, or 4 or more parties would be inevitably better. But the two major parties within the political construct and landscape are failing us. They create binary oppositions which force us, as individuals to compromise on one position in order to endorse another. The two party system pushes a confrontation, and a pendulum's swing which leads to extremes and not compromise -- there is no motivation for finding a middle path which recognizes that a best course might include elements of each side. The most radical position becomes the guiding star because it most clearly establishes the distinction between parties. That's dangerous and problematic. Third parties are sometimes willing to bridge the gap by seeing value in more subtle positions, or are able to drive other parties to see that there is a position other than their own. If the process is broken, my voting for one of the two major parties would be political suicide at best (as I would be endorsing the broken and corrupt system, thus selling out my own beliefs) and obvious criminal behavior as I would be aiding and abetting in the continuation of an electoral structure which is corrupt. I refuse to be part of a system I criticize. I will not walk away from my civic duty to vote but I will use the opportunity to say in as loud a voice as I can muster, "I complain about the system and I'll be damned if, in the same breath, I also helped allow it to continue."

Point the third: People tell me that "if you vote for a third party you are effectively voting for ______" and they insert the name of the devil they don't want to win. That threat is simply silly. I'm not handing my vote over to your opposition but do you know why you don't understand that? Because you actually WANT your devil to win so you see any action not in support of your devil as a threat. My voting third party or even not voting is denying your candidate of my vote and therefore bolstering the other person in your eyes. But you are missing a huge factor in my decision: I actively don't want either of the major party candidates to win! If I vote for your candidate or the other one, I am losing. I don;t ant to hand my vote to either side because both a against my position. Can you see that? There are elements in the platform, policies and positions of each candidate which I see as dangerous to this country and to my personal interests.

Politically minded people become so rabid about their position that they see the opposition as a serious threat to the way of life we all know and love. They can't see threat the supporters of their opposition feel precisely the same way and with (generally) the same degree of validity (even saying this will get me in trouble as supporters of each party will jump up and say "Can't you see that the other candidate believes ________?" And sure, that's true, but each one believes things which make me nauseated -- I haven't drunk either flavor of Kool-Aid). A vote for either major party is a vote against the other guy, but I want to be against BOTH of them! I have actually had people say to me "You can't let _______ into office!" As if I can possibly let either of them in.

Am I a one-issue voter? Sometimes, sure, but sometimes that one issue changes. And I can, when I pick particular positions, see that neither candidate will ensure my happiness in one particular area, and that area is one in which I refuse to compromise. Again, vague, but trust me, both the nominees have actively failed me. Do I pick one issue and vote that one, and hope that the other 95% of the candidate's positions are evils I can live with? How can I live with myself if I give my vote to either of the bad choices we have? I'm not asking this as some spoiled and privileged child. I'm saying this as a thinking voter who, instead of advocating open and violent rebellion wants to buck the system and point out that my opinion matters and neither of the major candidates speaks for me. So, understand: I cannot be party, by voting or not voting, to putting either of the two major party nominees into the White House. A vote for a third party (or a write in) is the statement "Neither of you two is fit to enter that building and be entrusted with the responsibility to act on my behalf as a private individual and as a member of a national entity."

So now, I am stuck. I cannot in good conscience vote for either major candidate. Neither will leave for my children a country in a better position than when we started, and that's what I believe no matter how much you try to tell me that the good will outweigh the bad. Things are going to get worse. Maybe not for you, or everyone, or each person completely, but inevitably, for one or more of my personal areas of import, things are about to go over a cliff. But a vote for a third party candidate will not be efficacious in putting a candidate I believe in into office. It will, no matter my wishes, end up being a protest vote, though at least one that I can believe in. And you might wonder -- if I am so firmly against the two party candidates, why did I lead off with equivocation, saying I might vote for a third party? Well, in the spirit of the political system, I believe it is foolish to have made up one's mind to the exclusion of future events and argument this early in the race. Those who have are blinding themselves to any future potentially persuasive proof or behavior which should, by all reasonable rights, sway them to support the other, or at least neither, candidate are what is destroying the republic. And that's the real pity in our process and why it will not change. We reward the most die-hard believer who can't be bothered to see the failings of his candidate of choice so he will never entertain the possibility that he should change his mind. Might I be persuaded over the next few months that one major party candidate is actually a "good" choice (and not just a lesser of two evils? Who knows? But if things continue in the vein in which the two conventions demonstrated, it isn't going to happen and I'm going to have to hope that we muddle through the next 4 years and learn something about the stupidity of the masses without devolving into civil or nuclear war.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

" And what's he then that says I play the villain?"

I have spent a lot of time on trying to understand Shylock. He isn't perfect, but the insight into the mind of Shylock which Shakespeare provides allows me to see a depth of character which represents something more than just a two-dimensional villain. This adds texture to the play and I always assumed that it reflected an "anti-anti-semitism" in Shakespeare's worldview (though possibly it was just part of an "anti-all religion so Judaism isn't any more bad than anything else). The more I think about it, the more I realize that this might have been only one part of Shakespeare's intention.

I have been running through the admittedly small sample of Shakespeare's plays which I have read and it seems to me that Will S. is working hard to create characters and relationships which are realistic -- not necessarily in how they talk, but in how they think. His genius lies in the fact that in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, he refused to present good guys and bad guys. His villains were relatable and even justifiable and his heroes were deeply flawed and sometimes not so heroic.

I don't know if there have been books written on this. Probably. If I were to go to good ol' Google and ask about "Shakespeare's villains" I would probably see a list of scholarly books dating back 350 years saying all the things I am about to say. So I will take the safer course and just not look. I can say with all honesty and sincerity that what you are reading is the child of my brain, speaking as one who intentionally did not read anything about this subject (not so I can flout my ignorance, only so I can boast of my independent genius). And if you ever thought of this stuff before me, I'm suing.

If I look into the various plays, I see a series of villains who make sense to me. Granted, this entire piece of writing could be a scathing indictment of my own sociopathy but I'd like to ignore that the way I usually ignore the emotions of other people. So here is a quick review:

Merchant of Venice -- as stated elsewhere, Shylock is not wrong. There is a history of abuse at the hands of the "heroes," his daughter is seduced away fro him and his family (and spends his money which she has stolen), and the legal system is manipulated by an impostor to victimize him. He is given stage time during which he represents the righteousness of his position and his arguments are never refuted.

Othello -- Iago is not wrong. Cassio is inexperienced and does not have the practical skill and sharp mind to see through Iago's plans, let alone to lead an army. Iago, this paradigm of unredemptive evil, is also right about Othello. The Moor is weak and manipulatable. Iago SHOULD be in charge of the army. And the possibility that Othello slept with Iago's wife is a reasonable motive and is easy to believe.

Macbeth -- I'm not even sure who the villain is here! Macbeth, himself, is a puppet -- a tool who has aspirations tempered by cowardice. He doesn't want to be bad and is spurred on by a prophecy he doesn't ask for. His wife, promised things by her husband before the play begins, is just doing her part to get what she deserves, and what the witches have predicted. She loved her father, loves her husband and has a guilty conscience -- not exactly the attributes of an unmitigated villain. Hans Gruber never regrets anything and is never troubled by what has to be done.

Hamlet -- a play without a villain. Sure, if you believe a spirit, Claudius killed Old King Hamlet, but Claudius feels bad about it, and only lashes out at young Hamlet once he feels threatened. And Hamlet? As heroes go, he tries not to (and he also recognizes that there is some confusion about being the bad guy when he asks "Who calls me villain?" He doesn't say "a villain calls me villain." He doesn't know what to consider his uncle). He is mean, narcissistic (eventually rash) and insane.

King Lear -- does anybody really feel sorry for Lear? He is a fool and his kids (whom HE raised, so whose fault is that?) don't want to put up with his garbage. So Goneril and Regan act reasonably when they boot him out. Cordelia is not much of a hero -- but she is, and in the innocent portrayal, Shakespeare shows that a naive hero is unrealistic and can't survive.

Julius Caesar -- OK, I haven't read it since 1982, and even then I didn't read it, but if I recall correctly, the murderers have reasons. Shakespeare doesn't just present bad guys who are bad for the sake of being bad. He gives them back stories and rationales.

I haven't read the histories -- if you have, feel free to comment about the baddies therein and let me know if their portrayal supports my thesis. As for the other comedies, I have read a couple (though my passing familiarity with Twelfth Night, Love's Labors Lost and A Comedy of Errors doesn't trigger any sense that there is clear and unmitigated villainy afoot in them). In Midsummer's Night, I barely see a plot, let alone a bad guy, but if I had to hang out with one character, it would be Puck. As for Measure for Measure, I see a whole lot of nasty people in a nasty society. I see lying, cheating and other deadly sins but no villains. And the punishment is marriage. Romeo and Juliet? [I know, not a comedy] Who is bad in this play? Both houses deserve a pox. Both young lovers are foolish. Both sets of parents should have been reported to DYFS a long time ago. No villains.

I'm not saying that I like the villains. I just see them as something more than antagonists or foils for the supposed good guy. Literature has examples of clear cut nasties. Look at the Emperor in the Star Wars series. Or watch Enter the Dragon. Until we read about Elphaba in Wicked, the Wicked Witch was pretty obviously evil. Fairy tales have heroic princes and horrible bad guys. Shakespeare doesn't do this and if we want to appreciate the complexity of his stories, we should do that by recognizing that he populates his stories with people, not characters.

Maybe now I will go look around and see how many websites and books make this same argument, but better. Probably not though.