Licensed to Gripe

October 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

That’s a good post by Zippy that Alissa pointed to. Zippy should address the issue I often run up against whenever I share with others that I intend to abstain in one or more elections:

Respondent (look of self-righteous disgust on his/her face): “Well then I have to say that you have no right to complain about anything if you choose not to vote.”

My response is usually a form of the following:

“I beg to differ with you on the point because you are dead wrong. I am a natural-born U.S. citizen, with deep roots and both feet firmly planted in this country. Whatever happens inside or outside this country in the name of the United States, socially, and/or, politically, affects me on a personal level, and my family on a family level. That, in and of itself, gives me every right to complain whenever wrongs are committed in the name of my country. Whether I choose to vote in any election or not.”

Indeed, I’ve had numerous people say to me, “Well, since I don’t vote I guess I really have no right to complain about anything.” Those individuals usually get a different version of the same speech.

In my view it is those who choose to vote who have no right – or at least a much more attenuated right – to complain.  They have personally endorsed the governing consensus and the process by which that governing consensus is made legitimate.  Someone who refuses to personally endorse the governing consensus in a concrete act has greater right to complain, not lesser.
  • Someone who refuses to work for Planned Parenthood has a greater right to complain about abortion
  • Someone who refuses to fight in an unjust war has a greater right to complain about the unjust war
  • Someone who refuses to eat processed food has a greater right to complain about processed food
  • Someone who refuses to buy products made in sweatshops has a greater right to complain about sweatshops

I could keep making this list forever.  But the point is that one entry on this potentially infinite list is

  • Someone who refuses to endorse the political consensus by voting has a greater right to complain about the political consensus

Integrity matters, and it is more than a little rich for the unscrupulous to lecture conscientious objectors about their “right to complain”.

§ 4 Responses to Licensed to Gripe

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