• author
    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • August 11, 2016 in Columnists

    Throwing away your vote is an act of privilege

    Tossing away your vote on a message no one will hear or cares about, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes called ‘voting your conscience’, but that’s backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that might feel good but might hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience; they are actually voting their EGO, or worse their PRIVILEGE. All under the guise that they are unable to accept that a system they find corrupted or broken actually applies to them.
    Clay Shirky (All about Clay Shirky on Wikipedia)

    Dear Mr. Shirky,

    Thank you. Thank  you. Thank you. And furthermore, thank you! And if there’s any doubt — THANK YOU!!!

    You just put into words what I’ve felt all along, particularly the part about ideological purists voting their privilege. Now hold off, please, Hillary haters and Bernie supporters — hear me out. I’m not saying this frivolously.

    I am an odd combination of incredibly privileged, rather privileged, somewhat privileged and quite underprivileged — or at least, I have been all of those things in my life. I come from a fine academic family (both by adoption and biologically, as it turns out) and spent my childhood exposed to a vast array of cultures and languages — this is cool. I was also the despised, least loved child in a family that made no bones about it. They detested me shamelessly because, after all, it was entirely my fault. Were they still alive, they would tell you this — in detail. This had me fleeing to the streets — one of so many kids flooding into the world due to any one of a combination of anguish, boredom or curiosity — in my case, because it was less painful to sleep in a dank stairwell with the cockroaches and spiders than it was to be at home knowing I was loathed.

    In the course of my life, I have been that street kid, in a juvenile institution (thanks for the PTSD, y’all), married at 17 and a single Welfare mother at 19. Underprivileged for pretty much all of that, then I was a college student and wham — poor like most college kids, but still, privileged again. Struggling desperately as a nurse’s aide, then homeless for a while. Underprivileged again. Starving so my daughter could eat while I worked as a clerical — still underprivileged.

    Since then, I have wavered between somewhat, rather and incredibly privileged, with all the events of my past serving to remind me that I have come a long, long way. I have created a world where I can at the very least get by, no matter what happens. I have some savings. My husband and I have an insane old farmhouse on truly extraordinary land. It’s not the level of privilege of some, but in comparison to living in a pup tent pitched in a cow field  (which I’ve done), it’s pretty posh.

    The point is, even if the people who throw away their votes succeed in dividing and conquering to the point where the evil Trumpelthinskin (gawd, I wish I’d coined that word!) wins, we are likely to get through it. We even have a cistern in the basement we could turn into a bomb shelter in a pinch, although it would be pretty tight between the housemates and all the pets.

    However, there are millions of people who simply wouldn’t survive if Trump comes to power.

    • The elderly, pensions destroyed, social security sacked.
    • Vulnerable single parents trying to get on their feet again.
    • The homeless.
    • People in need of medical care.
    • People struggling to stay in the middle class.
    • The working poor.
    • Wildlife and wild lands which will be sold for profit and ravaged shamelessly.
    • Women, their civil rights and their right to control their own bodies.
    • People of color, because under Trump, the racists will have free reign.
    • Children and young people and their education.
    • Muslims any and everywhere — and their families.
    • Anyone who doesn’t want a nuclear bomb dropped on them on the whim of a sociopathic narcissistic miscreant with a vengeful nature and a hair trigger temper.

    Give me a little more time and I bet I could double that list.

    Most of these are people don’t have the same degree of privilege as the people willing to throw away a vote crucial to stopping a monster. The people throwing away their vote are privileged enough that it has apparently never occurred to them that they might suffer unrecoverably under a Trump administration. They appear to believe they will be fine. As far as I can tell, they aren’t concerned at all.

    Perhaps they don’t need to be concerned for themselves. Bully for them. But I would like to know why they seem so unconcerned for the people who will suffer the torments of the damned under Trump. Do they honestly think that everybody in this country would survive it? Many, many people on that list will go down for the third time, leaving little more than a small, sad trail of bubbles as they drown.

    The list of Trump personal horrors just keeps on growing. And growing. And growing. He can barely string a coherent sentence together and he rarely seems able to discuss what his policies would be, but the few things he has managed to spew out have my hair standing straight on end. One thing’s for sure — Donald Trump is for Donald Trump first and corporations and the one percent next. He has no stoppers. He has no conscience. He has no impulse control. He has no scruples.

    People who are still trying to bring down Hillary, a decent, if human, candidate, and our only hope of thwarting Trump, are thinking of ideology and their own consciences. But can those consciences truly support the consequences of a Trump presidency for people who are far less privileged than themselves? And should the less privileged suffer so that the privileged can indulge their craving for ideological purity?

    P.S. If I didn’t say it enough already, Mr. Shirky — thank you.

    P.P.S. I’m from Columbia, Missouri, too.


      • Terri Connett

      • September 7, 2016 at 5:50 pm
      • Reply

      First of all, what a life you’ve lead dear Maya! I loved the subject of your column and agree with everything you said Trump will destroy. I loved Bernie. I will vote for Hillary. I will croak if Trump wins.


        • Maya Spier Stiles North

        • September 7, 2016 at 7:01 pm
        • Reply

        It’s been a heck of a ride — and the weird thing is I’ve hardly gone anywhere! Most people who have adventures have adventures. I don’t know what you’d call mine! 😉 I would have happily voted for Bernie, but he didn’t win. At some point, people need to get realistic or we will have that monster in office and heaven help us all.



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