When a presidential candidate backs the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, & Somalia, backed the coup in Honduras, backs NAFTA, backed the crime bill & welfare reform, backed mass deportations, backed corporate bailouts, backs hydrofracking, backed the Patriot Act, backs NSA spying, backs Israeli apartheid, backs the fight against BDS, and is financially backed by Goldman Sachs and neocons, there is nothing “lesser” about their evil.

Remi Kanazi, Palestinian-American poet, writer, and organizer, on Facebook

Some perspective on what’s really, really going on.

I’ve seen a lot of arguments lately that say not voting in protest, voting Green, or voting third-party is a sign of “privilege.” Such arguments miss the point, almost grotesquely in some ways.

Those of us who live in the United States reside at the top of the globalist/capitalist/imperialist pyramid, enjoying a privilege almost unfathomable to much of the rest of the world. A privilege not to have our land raped and vilely polluted for its natural resources, our children bombed from the skies, our leaders assassinated by foreign powers at will, and our environment turned into a toxic dumping ground.

Yes, social issues in the United States are very, very real. Black lives freaking matter. So do LGBTQ lives. And women’s lives. And those of immigrants. And more.

But never forget that in the current manifestation of the struggle for social justice in the U.S., all we are doing is expanding privilege to more groups. That’s it.

It didn’t used to be this way. Social justice movements in the 1960’s used to understand that the individual’s battle for justice mirrored the collective struggle for liberation from the yoke of oppression. That perspective has been all but lost, as everyone now merely fights to get their piece of the U.S. “pie.”

For example, that feminism has been reduced to a corporate CEO telling women that the best they should strive for, rather than their own fiery inner force to liberate themselves AND men from “economics” as a whole, is instead a seat at the boardroom table? Tragic. Sad. Heartbreaking.

How about using the divine passion and power of the feminine to burn that table in favor of a world not based on profit at all costs, and the unceasing exhaustion of our shared global resource heritage? Such an effort would liberate not only women, but men, as well. That’s the feminism I lean into.

And often emotionally-charged social issues are used effectively as distractions, so we all forget exactly what the United States is, which we can know by what it does.

It is Empire, plain and simple. The latest viral manifestation of the same expansionist, colonialist, exploitative mental disease that has compromised the human soul and this incredible planet since the dawn of what we’ve been taught to call “civilization.”

This is both a matter of fact, and a larger perspective that we are not “supposed” to keep, but that we must.

So when people tell you they’re not voting for either corporate tyranny party because they withdraw their consent to participate in the mass illusion that is “democracy,” you may call them privileged. But really, so too are you. And so am I. No one’s hands are clean, not in this country. Not now.

This is not to say that social struggles are not meaningful, and they do not have value. They absolutely do, and I acknowledge this as a white man who has never had his child gunned down by police in a park, been catcalled in my workplace, been harassed endlessly by airport security for the color of my skin, or been tied to a truck and dragged over a backroad because of who I love.

It is to say that each of us must keep our personal struggle in a larger view that orients us as a Human Life, not just a black life or a gay life or an immigrant life or a female life.

We each must assert not just our ethnicity or our sexuality or our gender but our Basic Human Dignity against every force that would rob us of it, from literally the womb to our tombs, by turning us into evening and weekend consumers, workaday cogs in wheels, and dehumanized brains plugged into endless screens forgetting who we really are.

Because it is not truly Us vs. the Other, whether that Other be white or a cop or a politician or another country. It is Humans vs. the Machine.

Voting is part of the Machine. Trump is part of the Machine. Clinton is part of the Machine. Sanders is part of the Machine, though he spoke passionately about changing its outputs in a way few do.

We all, as Americans, just happen to be inside the Machine. We don’t see its gaping maw devouring us. That reality is hidden, unless we choose to look, which we can. And when we do we can see the horrifying ways that we’re food for it, too.

What we don’t see, yet perhaps, are the working ends of F16 fighters, and drones, and leaking oil pipelines, and well-armed (and well-funded) mercenaries. We don’t see deformed babies from the waste of violent resource extraction. We don’t watch our lakes ebb and our trees rot and our animals starve in droves and our way of life evaporate year after excruciating year, as our lands die and our children abandon ancient tradition for the latest mass-produced digital distraction.

That is OUR privilege. That is American privilege. It is shameful in its depth and perversity, and frightening in its breadth. Amidst all this, the Machine devours nothing so much as Basic Human Dignity, the same we each must find the inner strength to assert.

So I have no problem with anyone taking a principled stand against this by supporting with a gesture — which is all voting is — those who wish for something truly better. Or by folding their arms and using another gesture to communicate their opinion: a middle finger.

Because as Emma Goldman said, “If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal.” And if you think that’s not true, remind me of a time when we voted on something and it changed meaningfully. Did we vote on the Civil Rights Act? How about the Iraq War? Did we vote on Obamacare? The bank bailouts? Citizens United? The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution? Vietnam? Iran-Contra? Do we get to vote on TPP? Keystone? The Surge? NDAA? The current military exercises off the coast of China, or the provocative U.S./NATO-led troop buildup in Ukraine?

I could go on.

In national elections we vote on just one thing: individuals. But isn’t it strange that though the cast of the movie changes, the plot seems to remain the same? I don’t recall ever getting a chance to vote on that.

This is not to be prescriptive. It is only to say every person must consider these issues deeply, and follow his or her conscience, which will then lead them to their own individual conclusions about how to proceed and why. And if we are willing to be kind, sensitive, and receptive to each other about what our values dictate, we open the possibility for dialogue and mutual understanding about how we approach this critical moment in our collective history.

But for any of us to call another “privileged” is to miss the point of the larger privilege we share, and that I believe is the real calling of each of us in this era to address.

The arrangement we don't get to vote on.
An arrangement we don’t get to vote on.

Note: This post is a slightly-revised and updated version of a post I made to Facebook on Wednesday July 27, 2016.

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