Wednesday, January 11, 2006

To vote or not to vote

I have always encouraged my kids, my family and my friends to vote. I come from a long line of Democrats and so of course I encourage everyone to vote Democratic, but it doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as you vote. It’s long been my belief that you have no right to complain about the system if you don’t vote.
I sat in Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood four years ago and watched the election returns on CBS over a plate of chili fries with a few friends. When Dan Rather announced that Al Gore had won Florida, everyone at Barney’s cheered. I ordered a round of drinks to celebrate and was feeling hopeful and happy but before the first frosty mug was delivered, a very strange thing happened. My trusted anchorman was back on the screen telling us that there had been a terrible mistake. Al Gore had NOT won Florida after all. In fact, there was a big problem – an unprecedented problem- and no one knew exactly how the election would turn out.
Four years later, at war with no end in sight, trillions of dollars in debt and hated pretty much all over the globe, I guess we all know how the election turned out. And now another election is coming; an election that will have a profound impact on our lives both here at home and all over the world. So how come I’m not excited??
It’s hard these days to encourage my kids and friends to vote. I mean, Al Gore WON the election and Bush was still elected so how much does our vote count, really??? Still I hang my John Kerry bumper stickers on my car, hang the placards in my yard and windows and hope for the best. But does it really matter whether we vote for Kerry, Nader or Bush? In the end, the election can be manipulated, just like it was in the last election. For the first time ever, I am not that enthusiastic about voting. I haven’t ordered my absentee ballot yet, even though I know I will be in Australia on November 2nd. My disillusionment hangs over my head like the dark storm cloud that follows Pigpen around in the Peanuts cartoon.
I want to be optimistic again. I long for the idealistic days of my punk rock youth. I pine for those long lost days when I thought the system could be changed by protest, letter writing and civil disobedience.
But I have seen things change drastically in the last four years. Europeans used to love us because we brought our blues and jazz music over the pond to their doorsteps. They loved American culture and wanted to watch our T.V. shows, eat our crappy fast food, buy our records and laugh at our jokes. Now too often they want to question us about our politics. “Isn’t it a Democracy?” my German road manager asks. “In a Democracy you choose your leaders, right?”
I try to explain how a few over-educated Jewish senior citizens in Florida who had voted their whole lives, suddenly had trouble sticking the pin in the right hole. I try to explain the whole “chads” phenomenon and how a few poor, African American voters had their votes thrown out because they, or someone who shared their name, committed a crime once. But in the end I don’t really know what to say or how to explain it. When I am not allowed on radio shows that I have always done because suddenly their format has changed to “European artists only” I feel the change. When I am staying in the Arab quarter in Paris (where I have always stayed because that’s what the promoter can afford) and now it feels hostile and unsafe when we speak English in the street, I feel the change. When I am followed in Amsterdam by angry Somali men who speak loudly about “Black Hawk Down” and “slaughtering all stupid Americans” I feel the change, deeply.
Of course, I will vote in this election because I feel its’ my civic duty to do so. I will vote for the guy who doesn’t have much charisma because I don’t think charisma equals wisdom. I will vote for the guy who went to a college I could never afford and lives a life of financial stability that I can only dream about because at least he seems to care about poor people and our struggles. I will vote for the guy who chose to protest the injustices of the Vietnam War instead of returning to his comfortable life of bourgeois leisure because I think it shows some integrity. I will vote for the wooden guy because at least he’s a moderate. At least he seems to understand that it’s not so simple as “You’re either with us or against us.”
I would prefer to vote for a woman who advocated legalizing drugs and prostitution. A woman who promised to run the country like a PTA meeting and provide access to affordable health care and education to all citizens. A woman who promised that with the new found revenue from prostitution and marijuana sales we could invent alternative methods of transportation so we aren’t dependent on foreign oil anymore. I would vote for that woman in a second and if I thought she would win, I might even run myself!
But for now I guess it’s more important to vote than not to vote. Even if the candidates aren’t the best choices - even if they are all rich, white male elitists who act like robots. I liked it when Howard Dean let out the whoop that was heard around the globe. I liked it when Teresa Heinz-Kerry told someone to “shove it”. I liked it when Clinton got a blow-job and I even liked it when scary Dick Cheney told someone to “Fuck Off.” I like politicians who are human or at least act like it. I’m not into voting for someone because they are pretty actors like Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura or Reagan. I want a candidate who will be honest and forthright and themselves. A politician who will say “Yes, I got some head in office but it doesn’t affect my job performance.”
I dream of a politician with actual life experience, who smoked some weed, inhaled, went to a hooker in Vegas, stood in line at the D.M.V. and got parking tickets occasionally. But until we get a human candidate, I will vote for the least offensive robot. I will choose the robot that has the best chance of unseating the other out of touch robot. Then I will pray like hell that my vote is actually counted. My vote is my ticket to complain bitterly for another four years. Don’t forget to get your ticket. It’s your duty as an American.
See ya at Barney’s in November.


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