The Common Good

An Iraq Veteran's Ambivalent Vote

I have given a lot of thought in the last several months about the vote coming up. Shane and Bart both gave interesting perspectives, and I certainly appreciate their input (and hope you, the readers, have as well). Having spent a lot of time interacting with Shane and many other friends who have a much better grasp of Christian anarchism than I, as well as our brothers and sisters who have every intention of voting for various reasons, I am indebted to their compassion and high regard for the electoral system we have in place (for better or worse). My own background has been colored by many different shades along the political spectrum, and I find it increasingly difficult to sort out what actual value my vote carries.

Is "hope" just the latest political catchphrase that the candidates have latched to in order to garner more support? Does "politics as usual" dictate their national policy proposals, or is it really a deeply held personal belief on their part? Some of this we may never know. The only way I have been able to maintain a sense of sanity is to inform myself primarily through Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report; at least I get to laugh while I watch our country spin dizzyingly toward Nov. 4th. Voting takes a bit of faith I think; I myself am not sold on the effectiveness of the electoral process to bring about change, but I have decided to vote nonetheless (at the Catholic Church down the street from us, no less).

The American vote does not impress me because our version of democracy is not an impartial political process. Too many of our kinsmen are still not granted suffrage. I have friends who are convicted felons, my wife works closely with homeless in Honolulu's Chinatown, I support native Hawaiians in their struggle for federal recognition and a degree of self-determination; we are reminded every day of systematically imposed political silence. Secondly, our two-party structure reflects an unhealthy democratic system. Politically, it polarizes and communicates almost exclusively in fracturing binarisms, reducing the rich textures and vibrant colors of our social body into blacks and whites. Or reds and blues, to be exact (didn't Jesus wear purple?). As a part of the Body that is charged with protecting the least of us, can I endorse a system that seems instead to secure their continued inferior status?

I agree with Shane when he says that when we vote, it indicates where our hope lies, but I think it is a partial truth. In January 2005, I was in a safehouse in Mosul guarding a voting place for Iraqis in the large northern city. A young Iraqi soldier was severely injured in a grenade attack on the site. The platoon medic and I dressed his wounds before sending him off in a Red Crescent Ambulance, his purple stained thumb held aloft as the technicians carried him off to a nearby clinic. For many people I have come in contact with, in our own country and others, the vote is the hope. I have a lot of respect for those who still believe in the system we have, while sympathizing with those it has hurt. Perhaps I will see who interests my convicted friend, or who one of my wife's clients would vote for. After all, the candidates must realize they both represent legitimate (and steadily growing) demographics, worthy of their attention.

Logan LaituriLogan Laituri is a six-year Army veteran with combatant service in Iraq during OIF II and experience with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Israel and the West Bank. He is an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and has co-founded a faith-based veterans assistance initiative called Centurion's Purse, which seeks to provide financial and spiritual relief to fellow service members in need. He blogs at courageouscoward.blogspot.com.

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