I hope this will be short.
In 2007 and 2008, people all across the United States worked tirelessly. They wrote, drew, organized, rallied, yelled, and eventually, voted. Political organizations, schools, individuals, churches, nonprofits, corporations, and many other groups spent millions of dollars. People knocked on doors; they made phone calls; they organized on websites; they sent e-mails and paper letters; and they put up banners, stickers, and signs. In a matter of months, the landscape of cities and countryside became swarmed with red, white, and blue propaganda. Commercials aired with flags waving and people smiling. The speech grew increasingly hopeful and exuberant. Change, and not the scary uncertain change but the good change like getting a new pair of jeans, was on the horizon. Everyone wanted to contribute. What was all the excitement and energy for? Of course, it was for a new president.
I want to do a thought experiment. Think back with me to all the time and energy poured out by millions of people to elect one man to one position. Think firmly of that one man and all the effort put into his election. Now, replace the name Barack Obama with
community organization to prevent drug trafficking, opening up houses to the homeless, or organizing to provide necessary resources for failing schools in impoverished areas. Imagine people all across the country organizing in revolutionary and grassroots ways to help end child homelessness or to create car-free zones. What if those millions of dollars thrown at Obama’s campaign were returned to the people who gave them with instructions to spend time and money solving real problems?
People believed that Obama’s election would bring real change. Now that they see it has not, they wonder what went wrong? Why is Obama not acting like Obama? Suddenly, all that work for real change seems all for naught. People feel cheated and slighted, but what did they expect? Presidential candidates show the total disempowerment by the U.S. political system of its constituents. People spent months and millions on trying to elect someone to solve the problems rather than simply take control of their own lives and solve the problems. They invested time and energy into giving someone else the authority to deal with their issues. What if all that had been spent on actually creating solutions?
In the end, Matthew 25 shows us the contrast between Jesus, the G-d of the world, and the President, the god of the state. What the President promises is that when we do things for him (i.e. make campaign contributions, hold meetings to promote him, or vote), the president will respond by doing things for others (i.e. solving issues of poverty, providing health care, or ending the war in Iraq). In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us a completely different type of political leader. He gives a king that asks no one to do anything for the king! Instead, the king demands people help others. In doing so, they helped the king! As a reward, the king promises a society of wonderful, loving community. Imagine a presidential candidate who took no money and told everyone to just help the very least in their communities instead. Imagine people taking time to organize for the sake of the oppressed rather than for the sake of the wealthy elite. Imagine a world where this whole rotten system does not delude people into believing change is possible and proceed to leave them hanging out to dry. Imagine hospitality and kindness as the merits of a campaign rather than stump speeches and rallies. Imagine.
That is why I don’t vote.