Being Made Invisible

The following was written by my girlfriend. I found my own voice in her writing, and so I offer it to you from us both

You really can’t know, until you’re on this side of things.

I had no idea. I grappled and prayed and thought, and made a decision. I made a decision about an act I will take, that will not directly affect anyone else. And now, every single day, I am inundated with messages about what’s wrong with me, or messages that make me invisible. Inundated, surrounded, immersed. I don’t seek it out, it just gets handed to me everywhere.

Some advocates and ads just say “Vote.” Fine. That’s your right to say to me. I’m gonna answer “No.” End of exchange. That’s about 5% of the conversations.

The rest are earnest, arrogant, condescending, angry faces. “If you’re concerned about your environment, you’ll do this.” “Get off the couch, you lazy bum, and do this.” “If you don’t do this, you’ve got no right to complain about anything.” People I know and people I don’t know. Everywhere, everywhere. Over and over and over and over and over again, in every direction.

Have you ever felt like the only person experiencing something? Have you ever felt invisible? There is nothing in the wider world that exists outside the voting juggernaut. There’s nowhere casual to go that gives me peers to hang out with. There’s nothing to combat the feelings that I am hated, that I am a threat.

It’s a bit like it was when I first became a vegetarian, though the scale is much more enormous this time. Meat eaters would (and still sometimes do) engage me viciously; they would argue and try to debate with me. I’ve never tried to convert anybody to vegetarianism. Your diet is not my business. I don’t understand why I’m such a threat to you, just making my own decisions. I do not see why there can’t be room just to be this thing, quietly.

Oh, but I’m not one of those vegetarians? I’m not one of those kind of nonvoters? I’m not one of those kind of Christians? Oh, well then, that doesn’t make me feel less lonely. Where is the space for me, then? Will you actually try to understand me, and others like me? Will you make space for the ones that are different, or will you negate us? Will you even fully imagine our existence, so that there’s some small place for us in the conversation? Or will you continue to lump groups together when it’s convenient for you?

There is no public venue where legitimate reasons not to vote are given any space. None. This is part of my anger, as it makes them invisible, even to those who don’t realize they’re struggling to find them. Every time nonvoters are so casually characterized as lazy, or ignorant, or selfish, or misinformed, or in need of help, one of our core freedoms is being taken away.

Have you ever listened, really listened to the arguments given on most voting PSAs? They sound like evangelists. They do not work from logic, they work from emotion. They make no room for you, the audience, to disagree. They assume you’re either one of them, or that you need their help. They make assumptions about you, about your character and attitudes and wellbeing. They bully. It may not be clear, since they’re talking about being voters, and you likely are one. But the next time one comes on, pretend they’re asking you to convert to Christianity, or some other group foreign to you.

Now I’m reminded of being in another minority… growing up queer in a family where queer didn’t exist. It’s really quite similar in a lot of ways.

A broken voting record?

The above image is from a Marvel comic series called The Runaways.

The following is from Nux Vomica’s song “The Final Election In A Crumbling Empire”

The whole world is watching and the whole world is sick, and they’d really rather see a puppet head on a stick.
And all the soulless self-important liars holding the reins make the good ones fighting for something real in terms of change seem so strangely out of place, their goals so out of range…
And we feel ourselves choke as the mud flies, and the tradition of lies undermines and belies what we’re taught all our lives:
“Vote or don’t complain.”
That short-sighted, simplified argument proves that we know nothing.
And the whole world is watching.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas says

If you want to know what coercion looks like, it’s called a democratic election.

And some anonymous artist says

What I’m saying, then, is “Right on.”

Independence?

Independence from what? Facist theft of property? Being jailed for political differences? Extortion of money to fund mass murder? Sanction of indefinite jailing without charges? Torture?

On this day of celebration of the formation of a state which revels in the above atrocities, I defer to Leo Tolstoy, who said in Christianity and Patriotism (1894)

Patriotism … for rulers is nothing else than a tool for achieving their power-hungry and money-hungry goals, and for the ruled it means renouncing their human dignity, reason, conscience, and slavish submission to those in power. … Patriotism is slavery.

And to Emma Goldman, who wrote in Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty

Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. […] Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

Governments do not create, give nor protect freedom. They only infringe upon it in different ways. Is independence from one state worth celebrating when it was immediately replaced by another?

Consent and the State

Trinity’s most recent post at SM Feminist got me thinking about parallels that can be drawn between the state and BDSM. In it she quotes a feminist opponent of S/M who addresses the sexualization of and desire for male dominance, referring specifically to Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind

A thorough overhaul of desire is clearly on the feminist agenda: the fantasy that we are overwhelmed by Rhett Butler should be traded in for one in which we seize state power and reeducate him.

Of course anytime someone starts talking about “seizing state power” then I don’t really know how to engage with them. But this passage did start my wheels turning.

A very popular guideline among many BDSM inclined folks is that everything should be safe, sane and consensual or risk-aware and consensual. There are those who will not even make conspicuous BDSM elements of their relationship in public, because to do so is to involve others who have not given their consent (see the variety of responses to a couple being kicked off a bus because one of them was collared and on a leash). Everyone is given a choice on whether or not they wish to be in a BDSM scene or relationship. Those who choose not to are not threated with violence or otherwise pressured.

We’re not given the same option with the state. Even in the most representative and participatory forms of government we’re not given the option of opting out. We can have some voice in our collective masters, but we can never truly consent because we’re only presented with the option of being governed.

I don’t think that everyone should be forced to live in an anarchist society. I think that people should have the ability to create governments for themselves, but the only way that is compatible with free choice is if one of the choices is not to govern nor be governed at all. As it stands those who would choose not to participate are threated with violence, so even when someone makes use of the input they have into the American democracy, they have not done so with full consent, because consent under threat is no consent at all.

Vote

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Vote
Use your voice
Make your choice
Take down the psychopathic power structure
Replace it with another
less diseased?
We’ll see

In a system built on violence every vote’s an affirmation
an attestation
a confirmation
that you believe in the system
That violence (when used by the right people) can make things better

In a system that is sick every vote’s an infection
A blind eye to every inspection
forced at the end of a gun

At the heart of every law is a threat
That it doesn’t matter where your heart’s set
All will comply, one by one

That they will push and pull and take you where they will
And if you stand still
They will break you down with their billy clubs and tear gas

Because the people have spoken
Your bones may be broken
For the majority have placed you in the criminal class

You see…

There is an arrogance to creating a law
Saying you know better than me what’s best for me

But I’m not looking for confrontation
I don’t want to tear you down when you try to build a better world
I just want you to see like I see
That your better world is built on bones

When you choose between the left and the right
When you fight the good fight
When you try to make a sick system kill a little slower than before

I know your heart is true
But in a system built to subdue
Your heart can be used up to feed the lust for gore

And I’m sorry
I don’t have the answers
I can’t say what can replace this Empire

See, I fear the Empire sickness
Will always be with us
Much like Christ said of the poor

So I try to speak from a place of love
Standing at the bottom, always looking above
And explain why I will not pick up your ballot shaped sword

Gabe Harrell – Vote.mp3