Voting Is Violence

Previously by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy: Myth, Morality, and Osama bin Laden

Voting in governmental election is participation in violence. That is not political ideology, that is just fact. Voting in governmental elections is participation in violence because that is what governmental elections are about at their root. A governmental election is one method of legitimating the use of violence of one human being against another. The divine right of kings or the right of primogeniture would be others. All such mechanisms – elections, divine right of king, the right of primogeniture, drawing straws – are rooted in cultural fantasies that are nurtured from the cradle. The fantasies consist of hardwiring the children within a particular geography to the idea that because a person receives the majority of votes, is a king, is the first born, got the longest straw, he has the legal and moral right to employ the organized violence apparatus of the human arrangement called the state, e.g., the military, the police, the FBI, the CIA, etc., in order to cause people suffering and/or to kill people.

The state may be many other things, but at root it is a compulsory political organization that has acquired and maintains a monopoly of violence that is called legitimate within a certain geographical area. Since violence is the sine qua non for a state's existence, the person who is lucky enough – because he was the fastest sperm to get to an egg in a cluster of seventy million other sperms inside a woman called a queen, or because he was clever enough to boondoggled more people to put an "X" beside his name than the other guys, or because he was fortuitous enough to have drawn the longest straw – is then mythically, mystically, morally and legally endowed with the power and authority to bring suffering and death down upon people at home and abroad. He or she maybe an idiot or a genius, mentally ill or mentally stable, he or she may be under the controlled of a regent or a mother, bankers or corporations, but all that is irrelevant. The office legitimizes all of this person's imposition of suffering and death on others – and nothing else matters. Therefore by hook or by crook get the office!

Once one has the office, and is vested in the myth and the mystique and the moral validation that go with it, he or she cannot only torment, torture and kill other people, he or she can make the laws that validate the agony and slaughter he or she is pouring down on others. Hitler did nothing illegal, which is why U.S., England, France and Russia had to create the trumped-up ex post facto law – so called crimes against humanity – to convict and kill Hitler's cabinet and military officers. Hitler saw to it that everything he did was legal by simply creating the laws he needed to legalize what he wanted to do. A contemporary local example of this process would be the Patriot Act in the United States.

President William Clinton kills 400,000 children under twelve years of age in Iraq, his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, says on national television that this most grotesque form of child abuse "was worth it." Yet, neither one is in prison nor in the electric chair. Why?

No one is born with the right to kill 400,000 children. Yet, President Clinton, and to a lesser extent King Herod, killed children with abandon. From whence comes their right to do this. Clinton's right to kill children came from being elected President. Herod's right came from his being the son of a King. That is it! Human beings endowing human beings with the right to kill human beings is what the divine right of kings, drawing straws or elections are all about. If either Obama or Romney were not going to be endowed, if elected President, with the same right to use violence against their fellow human beings that Clinton and Herod had would anyone beyond their family, friends and acquaintances care a jot about what these two guys had to say?

And of course, for the person, who is vested by the local moral mythology with legitimate kill power, to prevail on the local religious grandees – who do like to sit in the first place at head tables and whose real estate-financial institutions are also subject the local Ozymandias of the moment – to bless and supply the appropriate theology to religiously legitimate what the idiot king or the "best-of-the-brightest" is doing, or to ignore it, is child's play.

It is here that Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels, the Incarnation of God, who teaches a Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies creates a krisis, a time of judgment, a moment of decision with eternal significance for those who believe in Him. Do they follow the local, humanly created moral mythology and participate in the election of the communities designated killer or do they follow the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and the will of the Father of all as revealed by Him, and disassociate themselves in every way from the pomp, and snares and deceits of violence and enmity?

Given the choice would Jesus have voted for Herod or Pilate or neither? In governmental elections is there ever anyone to vote for but Herod or Pilate? Since the make-believe lesser of two evils standard is still evil, why not just write-in "Lucifer" as your vote?

Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is a priest of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine-Melkite) of the Catholic Church. Formerly a lawyer and a university educator, he is the founder and the original director of The Program for the Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution at the University of Notre Dame. He is also co-founder, along with Dorothy Day and others of Pax Christi-USA. His work may be accessed at the Center for Christian Non-Violence.