Wendell Berry is a state treasure and ought to be declared as such. Writing recently in The Courier-Journal, Berry eloquently explained why he chose not to vote in the May gubernatorial primary. Long story short, he didn’t think there was anyone to vote “for,” a sentiment that I would wager was shared by many Kentuckians.
Shortly before the primary, I caught part of the KET Democratic debate that addressed mountaintop removal, an issue Berry used as an example in his Op-Ed. Only one candidate, Jonathan Miller, demonstrated an understanding of the issue. The other responses ranged from denial to muttering about funding studies and commissions to determine if there is a problem. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but performing bulldozer mastectomies on our mountains is most definitely a problem, and just because the coal companies say it isn’t so, while greasing the palms of Frankfort (and Washington), it’s not an excuse for blindness.
But that wasn’t the only question that established these guys as ass-wipers. When asked about whether they thought a cigarette tax hike was a good idea, the overwhelming response was that there was no fiscal need for such a tax. Almost across the board, they failed to make the connection between tobacco and the health of the citizens of this state.
That was the point when I figured that I’d better turn off the television before I started foaming at the mouth. And no, I didn’t vote either. There was no one to vote “for,” and when you vote for the lesser of the evils, you still end up with evil.
In Berry’s words, “This is a crisis of our democratic system — to give the people a vote but not a choice is a procedure common to modern dictatorships — but it is a crisis that has been officially unnoticed for a long time.”
The problem, of course, isn’t just a Kentucky thing. It is a national crisis. As low as the presidential approval rate is, the congressional one is even lower. The corporate-endowed two-party system has a stranglehold on the electoral process, making good government a complete impossibility. I read an analysis recently suggesting that the reason impeaching President Bush is off the table is because the Dems don’t feel they can accomplish other things if they focus on that. Hating, once again, to state the obvious, but the list of their accomplishments thus far this term is mighty short. And it is no excuse for them not to exercise their duty to uphold the Constitution and impeach a lawless president.
In a rebuttal to Berry’s column, former state senator David Karem suggested that the sheer number of candidates gave us a wide array of choices in the May primary. That all of the candidates were white and only one was a woman, by itself, belies that statement. And while I applaud Clinton and Obama for being in the game on the national level, that in itself is not sufficient qualification, nor is it what is required to lead the country in these perilous times.
As voters, we need to demand choices that meet our needs rather than accept candidates who have sold their souls to the highest bidder. In the presidential race, we have three candidates who offer such a choice: Democrats Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Sen. Mike Gravel and Republican Rep. Ron Paul (and, yes, they are all white men, but they represent the current possibilities). The party faithful will smile indulgently and remind us not to throw away our votes on these fringe candidates. But supporting these candidacies is not a question of throwing away our vote, and it is precisely what we need to do because they give us something to vote “for” and a chance to reclaim our democracy.
We need to insist that the pressing issues confronting this country be addressed and that our candidates not be beholden to those whose agenda is the destruction of the planet and its people. It’s time to vote our bliss and not our angst. Now, if Mr. Berry (and other Kentucky treasures like feminist writer bell hooks, who so deeply understands the toxic nature of our present system) would consider running for governor or perhaps the Senate …
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org, and her work has been published in numerous publications. She blogs for both the Feminist Peace Network and Women in Media and News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org