by Sanjay Perera
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.—Shakespeare
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.—Søren Kierkegaard
Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change. Aristotle tells us ‘At the Olympic games it is not the finest or the strongest men who are crowned, but those who enter the lists. . .so too in the life of the honorable and the good it is they who act rightly who win the prize.’–Robert F. Kennedy
America is being presented with a two-card trick, a great con, and it could be falling for it again. Barack Obama will be stepping down soon and may well be remembered as one of the most disappointing presidents in US history. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is gleefully dominating headlines with his wild statements, and the mainstream media is complicit in spreading his words; and Hillary Clinton is still trying to find a way to get into the campaign proper without her corruption and warmongering nature further clouding her popularity among confused and angry Democrats: some of whom have grasped that Bernie Sanders was shanghaied out of the presidential race.
However, this is what is important: the US Presidential election this year is driven almost entirely by fear, loathing and anger. No choices are being made on a large scale, at the moment, for what voters truly need and what is crucial to their well-being or that of the country. Even so, this election presents a moral conundrum of sorts. The cornerstone of the shonky argument that Clinton’s backers and admirers run in support of her is why choosing the lesser evil is a necessity. Clear thinking and sound judgement have vanished. Not many in the US seem interested in taking a stand on ethical grounds proper. And, indeed, it is remarkable that the Clinton campaign’s entire premise has been for America to vote for someone other than Trump, that is, for Hillary. Perhaps among those who fall for the campaign’s strategy, there are some who do seem to believe that choosing the lesser evil is doing the right thing.
But pause for a moment: are genuine moral issues as simple as that?
What is presented to the American voter is a swindle wrapped in a sham inside a moral enigma. The shell game runs like this: if you are disillusioned by the two hollow candidates being offered you by the two-party scam and not vote on election day, that is, if you don’t vote for Clinton, you’re voting for Trump. But if you vote for a third party candidate, like the Green’s Jill Stein, you’re still voting for Trump because that siphons votes away from Clinton. In fact, Stein is going to be another Ralph Nader. So the much maligned Nader is the next fear factor in the upcoming elections. Do we want another ‘Nader upset,’ and apart from fearing Trump, you should fear the shadow of Nader: because a spectre is haunting America–the spectre of Nader. Who, but Nader, caused George W. Bush’s presidential ascendancy. To conclude, a vote for the Greens means eight years of Trump.
(By the way, Nader is actually a great American, a true patriot, and when compared to Obama, Trump and the Clintons: a hero).
But why, indeed, are fear-saturated Clinton supporters convinced that the Green Party can have such an impact on the elections? Because their cognitive dissonance allows them to condemn the Greens as insignificant and simultaneously admit that the Greens are significant. For instance, the claims by Clinton supporters that the Greens do not have a chance, that they should focus on activism and not seek high office, that they lack a sense of political realism and whatnot: but at the same time the Greens must not be a spoiler for Hillary. However, do these Clinton supporters ever wonder why people are disillusioned by the two-party system, or rather not vote than have anything to do with Trump or Clinton? Do they try to think through why more people seem ready to give the Greens a chance? It is their fellow citizens who determine the outcome of elections because it is they who cast the ballots. Would Trump be where he is if it is not for angry Americans who are sick and tired of politics as usual? What makes shills for Clinton think that if the Greens were not there, Clinton would win? And another way to look at it: if people are swayed by the Greens could it be because they come across as sound, principled and concerned for what corporatism and capitalism have done to America, the world and the environment?
Where in the blame game that Clinton supporters are good at do they ever place the loss of credibility of their party at the threshold of its corrupt practices, and the inimitable personality and accomplishments of their candidate? But the rejoinder is that we must choose the lesser of two evils. Finally, clarity and the light of reason shine through. If only one thing is taught in American schools it must be this: get real, lesser evil means better evil.
Yet, we persist and ask: why should any clear thinking person react in fear like rats in a cage when choosing their president? Can bogeyman Trump do as he likes if elected? Whatever happened to that vaunted separation of powers some Americans still go on about? Or does that not matter anymore? If it doesn’t, what does American democracy have to offer, anyway? Perhaps that doesn’t matter, either. But since the president can launch war without end on his own thanks to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force then someone other than Trump or Clinton is a safer bet for lives all around.
But is avoiding war and America transforming itself into something other than its current incarnation as a death machine matter? Does even asking that question matter? The point is that it is difficult to get a coherent answer from those who live in fear and trembling, and have trigger-happy fingers ready to vote, or jump the gun, for Clinton as soon as they hear the word ‘Trump.’
And here is where the crowning act of logic for many liberals comes into full force: to avoid Trump (wild man) and Nader-like (not violent enough) candidates, all Democrats–which means erstwhile Bernie supporters–and even independents (how likely is that?), should vote for Clinton who has a blood lust in her DNA. At least she is somewhere in-between, and does that not mean she is moderate?
In other words, with Trump the term ‘proto-fascist’ comes to mind, but with Clinton it is ‘neoliberal’: and being the latter is a lesser evil, don’t you know? Q.E.D.
Yet, we insist, voting for the ‘lesser evil’ is still a vote for evil.
So, why do you want to vote for evil?
Lest we forget, here is some more logic that hardcore Democrats will appreciate. Since you principally resonate with fear and vote according to that, think about this carefully: you believe that a vote for anyone else other than Clinton is a vote for Trump; as things stand, even if the Republicans manage to force Trump out somehow and launch a less ‘fearful’ candidate in his place, your fear based thinking remains: a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the Republicans. But in this case, is ‘less fearful’ better than ‘fearful’? Should we vote for a less fearful candidate since we can go with a lesser evil? Who knows, where most Democrats are concerned? As long as it is not their Clinton, then it must be a bad choice (read: Republican means ‘greater evil’; or, between Lucifer and Mephistopheles, go with the latter after all he gave Faust a good deal).
The bottom line is that so many of you Democrats do not know who or what you are voting for. You are, therefore, not in a position to dictate to others who to vote for. Because the reason why America is the way it is today, with Trump as a potential president, is on many counts precisely due to your cowardice, inability to look beyond your comfort zone, and deficit in moral courage. You have hardly ever voted or acted out of conscience because you are scaredy-cats. That is the truth.
America today is a dysfunctional and violent society. Trumpists are fuelled by anger, which is also fear based, but angry people tend to act rather than only blame someone else for their problems (e.g., unlike the Democrats who are already looking for scapegoats if/when Clinton loses).
No human being, no American, and no voter when faced with Scylla (Clinton) and Charybdis (Trump) should choose either. They should, instead, revolt. But that is to expect a greatness that is defunct in the US at the moment. In any case, America is too busy bombing some target in the Middle East and blaming some extremist group for its troubles. Somehow, it seems that America, or Hillary when holding public office, has never helped create any of these troubles.
Trump has not held high office, Clinton has been associated with it: and it is she who has blood on her hands–this apparently qualifies her to be president; she is indeed qualified as much as is Lady Macbeth: All hail, Thane of Washington, D.C., the once and future queen of chaos.
It is no secret that both Trump and Clinton are chomping at the bit to show that they can be extremely violent against America’s self-generated enemies. That is how some Republicans think you make America great, but given the toxicity of current domestic and international violence America expends on itself and the world: some Democrats know that America is already great. Yet, contrary to what that whole lot, the media and Hollywood try to portray–there is no redemption in violence–only the affirmation of nihilism.
It is only through taking a tough stand on moral grounds, and in acting according to conscience that some Americans can seek redemption for their country, and for what it has done to its own citizens and the rest of the world. It is those Americans who act from their conscience against the likes of Trump and Clinton, and whoever the desperate Republicans may try to foist on people late in the game, who will put the term ‘greatness’ next to the name ‘America.’
Notwithstanding, those who decide to lead their lives in fear and moral cowardice are those who choose to abrogate their conscience as human beings. Thus, they have in effect nothing to say of any importance to others who act according to their conscience. Those who act according to their conscience are exercising their free will: they do not need to account to anyone for doing what they know, in all good conscience, to be right.
If cowards have the right to decide their mode of self-destruction by making bad choices which affect the fates of others who do not share their lily-livered outlook on existence, those with moral courage have the right to make their decisions and bear the consequences of that, and the cowards will have to learn to live with it: which is what cowards do best. Not everyone will be led by the nose to the slaughter house. Some will resist and do what is right.
For those who are going third party and looking to go Green because it is the right thing; because you reject the caricature that is Trump, and the corruption, violence and deceit that is Clinton: you are doing more than some of you may be aware of. You are taking a monumental step in sending a message to the controllers behind the scenes of America: that there are people in America who will not stand for what has happened to their country anymore. In taking on the controllers decisively, you are completing your contract with yourself as being a person with moral agency: someone who can rise above fear and stand your ground despite the odds. You do not owe anything to the cowards who only blame you for your courage and good sense, you owe it to yourselves and to the good name that America can start re-building for itself.
For all those who this year are consciously making the effort, strengthening your backbone and exercising your will power to reject Trump, exorcise America of the Clintons, and struggle against the controllers—this is your time.
Trump and the Republicans, Hillary and the Democrats, and their controllers are giving you a chance of a lifetime to go beyond the calculus of fear.
As Francis Bacon says: “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”
We know who the darkness is, but you are that light.
The writer is the editor of Philosophers for Change.
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