A Certain Lack of Focus

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rigging It

I realize this has nothing to do with design, or art, or writing, or, directly, my life, but I've been musing about the Kenyon elections a bit lately. When I first heard about the riots, the deaths, I was mostly just sad because Kenya is one of the only countries in Africa that's generally safe and stable. Shame. The more I heard about it the more I was dismayed, thinking why do they have to turn to violence, is this really something worth dying for?

goreThen I checked myself and wondered why I was so skeptical. What does it say about me, that I think they're overreacting? This is America, right? We're supposed to stand for justice and democracy and everyone's vote counting, but in 2000, when Gore won the popular vote, we all (and by all I mean people who weren't all into Bush obviously) bitched a bunch and got on with our lives. That alone isn't even that bad, really. The electoral college decided it was for the best to go with Bush, and Gore decided not to fight the decision. It was a little shady, but all more or less legal. What IS bad though, is that there were many many allegations of rigged elections. Rigged voting machines, corrupt voting officials, and again, we bitched about it and then forgot it. Why not? We were comfortable.

So in 2004 when the same thing happened again, only worse, what did we do? The same thing obviously. Kerry didn't even come as close as Gore, but there were definitely some illegal things going on. Not even left wing conspiracy theory illegal things, but obviously illegal. Here in Ohio we saw some of the worst examples. In the greyer areas were voters being discouraged from voting, being turned away or intentionally misdirected. voteThen in the "obviously shite" category were things like the CEO of Diebold promising to deliver Ohio to Bush, and Blackwell bragging about doing the same thing. WTF? And we did NOTHING, nothing but bitch and moan and threaten to move to Canada.

It's starting to piss me off that the media is condemning Raila Odinga for NOT requesting that his followers turn away from violence. He said in an interview, "there is no peace without justice," it's a commonly said phrase and it's TRUE. I realize in Kenya there's more to the story. Allegations of genocide and tribal feuding complicate the story and make it all the more tragic. If the allegations are true they clearly need to be addressed. And honestly, I don't even pretend to understand exactly what's going on over there. But if there's one thing we shouldn't be condemning, it's rioting over rigged elections. Maybe we should be condemning ourselves for not rioting.

flagThere is a (possibly) Ben Franklin quote that's been thrown around a lot lately: "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither." Whether Franklin said it or not, it's a great quote. In this case, I think we can substitute Liberty with Rights, and Security with comfort, and we've got the basic state of most Americans. We won't fight for our rights, for our VOTE because it doesn't threaten our comfort.

We're too damn comfortable. Maybe if we were a little closer to death and instability on any given day we'd have a better understanding of their relative value. What's happening in Kenya could never happen in the US, but it's not because our government is too well protected with checks and balances, it's not because we're free enough from corruption, it's because we're too lazy to do anything more than complain.

I ask myself: Am I willing to risk my life because our elections were rigged? I know the answer. I'll watch someone take my ballot and spit on it and tear it into pieces, then I'll go home and tell my friends about it, and about how disgraceful it is. I've always considered myself someone who would stand up for what I believed in. But when I get right down to it, I missed the boat. The time to fight has already come, and the truth is I'm not willing to die for my rights. I don't deserve them. None of us do.

*Pics linked to sources

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