I've just been called a privileged white male repeatedly in the past few hours, by privileged white men and women who say I'm [insert expletive of your choice] for saying that the two parties, and their leadership and their presidential candidates are indistinguishably as evil as each other, as far as I can tell.
It started with posting this little rhyme on Facebook and Twitter:
I just see two evil people
Putting on a puppet show
If one of them is lesser
I certainly don't know
What followed almost immediately were dozens of shares and dozens of comments. A mix of praise, polite disagreement, and lots of vitriol from outraged white people, both men and women, accusing me of not caring about who wins this farcical election because I am a privileged white male and therefore will evidently be less impacted by the rise of fascism in the US that a Trump presidency is going to usher in. Along with that kind of sentiment were what appeared to be Democratic Party talking points related to the right to abortion and the rights of LGBTQ people, Supreme Court appointments, and random things like the importance of sticking with climate treaties and keeping our national parks.
I think everything has been said about these things already so many times by so many people. (Most eloquently on Counterpunch.) But I wanted to show some respect for my critics by responding thoughtfully to you, in a (hopefully) coherent, multi-paragraph kind of explanation, rather than continuing the discussion on Facebook, which has a tendency to devolve into something less than intelligent discourse after the first couple exchanges (or sooner).
First of all, one thing that distresses me about these comments from some of my Facebook Friends (many of whom I've actually met in person at least once or twice) is the inherent nationalism.
When they talk about the rights of women, the right to an abortion, and discrimination against LGBTQ people, they are talking about the United States. Why does this bother me? Because whoever runs the United States is not just president of one of the world's biggest countries. They are someone who will have a horribly negative impact on the rest of the world, too. They are people who are going to kill lots and lots of women, men and children. Including LGBTQ ones. They are people who are going to be cozy with misogynistic dictatorships, where women don't have access to abortions, where it's illegal to be LGBT or Q, such as Saudi Arabia.
We live in an empire. I feel like I need to say that again. We live in an empire. Do you have any idea what that means, you who say I don't care because I'm too white, male, and privileged to give a shit about other people?
Do you know what Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W Bush, and George HW Bush all have in common? They are all mass murderers. Collectively, they have killed millions and millions of people, and immiserated billions.
Daddy Bush bombed Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of weeks. Bill Clinton maintained economic sanctions on the country that killed hundreds of thousands more than Bush had killed with bombs and sanctions before him. Madeline Albright, that great feminist, was one of the great brains behind this policy, which UNICEF said was responsible for killing half a million children. Most of whom were girls. Many of whom would have grown up to be lesbians, bisexuals, trans, etc. And under the government the bipartisan US invaders violently overthrew, the women among them, if they had lived to become women, would have had access to all the abortions they ever needed -- for free. But no more. Now they're dead, and living in societies with no functional governments and no government services to speak of.
Then of course W built upon the Bush/Clinton legacy of genocide -- fratricide, matricide, patricide, sororicide (yes, that's a word) -- by invading Iraq more completely and actually overthrowing the government. And Hillary Clinton voted for this invasion. And then, under the Obama administration, in which Hillary Clinton played a powerful role as Secretary of State, the US did to Libya what it had done to Iraq, with the same, predictably horrible results.
The lives of Iraqi and Libyan women, girls, men, boys, and everybody else is immeasurably worse now than it was before the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama decades of genocidal empire-building. Do they matter? Do all of those women and girls who are living in crowded, miserable refugee camps throughout the Middle East matter? When they need to get an abortion, do they matter? When they are denied an education by their deplorable circumstances, after being born in countries like Iraq and Libya where they used to get free education up to graduate school, do they matter to you?
You are telling me to vote for a mass murderer. You are voting for a mass murderer. How do you feel about that?
Ah, but Trump is worse, so I'm a crazy idealist for stating the facts here. I should be talking up whatever few positive things I can find to say about Hillary Clinton. Hey, she's never opposed abortion! Well, she used to oppose marriage equality, like most of her party, like most of the other party, but now she's changed on that. As has much of the other party, too, but we won't mention that. We'll only mention the crazier elements of the other party, in order to build this straw man here. Wow, it burns really well! Especially when you add a little Democratic fracking gas.
Anyway, back to my critics. So Clinton has a record of genocide. Let's just say that that's true (because it is). But Trump, who has no record of genocide, is worse. How do we know that? Because, although Hillary Clinton has presided over the deportations of millions of people from Mexico, Central America, and elsewhere, Trump talks about how much he hates Mexicans. And who knows what he'll do when he gets in -- maybe deport even more people than Obama/Clinton did! So, the lesser evil is the one who has actually deported more people than any other administration in US history. The greater evil is the one who talks about deporting even more people. That's the discourse, right?
But I say talk is cheap. Yeah, maybe Trump will be even worse than Clinton. I don't know -- you don't, either. Nobody does. He has no political record to stand on. He does talk a lot of horrible shit, that's for sure. Clinton talks horrible shit about him, but otherwise talks about unity, whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean -- "stronger together." She has presided over the greatest destruction of the welfare state that any society has ever known, aside from the ones she's been involved with invading, where the destruction of better welfare states than we've ever had has been even more complete than what the Clinton welfare reform accomplished at home (yes, she was promoting it -- it's hers, too). She has been responsible for sending millions and millions of Black and Brown people (and lots of white people, too) to prison. Including more women than have ever been imprisoned in any society in the history of humanity. But she talks a good line in order to get elected, and Trump talks shit about everybody who's not white and male and rightwing, so she must be better than him.
Both candidates are surrounding themselves with the traditional cabal of capitalists and empire-builders, just as Obama did before them, just as Bush and Clinton did before him. But we're supposed to see differences here.
OK, so let's just say the rest of the world doesn't matter. Who cares about all those Iraqi and Libyan women and girls. The Republicans are going to ban abortion in the United States. Never mind the fact that after eight years of Bush, Jr, four years of Daddy Bush, and eight years of Reagan, abortion is still legal in the United States, at least on a federal level. Never mind the fact that a Republican was president when abortion was legalized by a Supreme Court that was largely appointed by previous Republican presidents. Fear the Republicans, those who would ban abortion (someday, maybe, when they're finally ready to lose control of the Congress and never get it back).
But it doesn't work that way in reality. In reality, we don't have a functional democracy (in case you hadn't noticed). In reality, elections don't change things in this country. In other countries they do. Not here. Here in the USA we have a form of direct corporate rule, and Trump and Clinton and their parties are just two sides of this two-faced coin.
Abortion was legalized because of the feminist movement here and around the world. It would have happened regardless of which party was in power, just as it did around the same time in lots of other countries. Abortion will not be banned nationally because most people are pro-choice, and there would be a massive, militant movement to re-legalize it if it were banned, and the powers-that-be don't want such movements, so they won't do that. They'll talk about it, in parts of the country where that sells well, because it will help get them elected. Then they'll stab their Christian evangelical constituency in the back, just as Hillary has repeatedly stabbed her liberal constituency in the back.
When you have a two-party system where both parties are corrupt institutions of a tiny elite, elections are just a joke. It doesn't matter which of these clowns you vote for -- or if it does matter, nobody knows to what extent it might, because what matters is what they do, not what they say. And what they do, historically, depends on what we do -- not how we vote.
To wit: nobody voted to end slavery. Slaves liberated themselves en masse in the course of the Civil War, and were then declared to be "free" by a government which happened to be led by a Republican. After that, the party of white supremacy -- the Democratic Party -- ruled the South and much of the rest of the US for a century.
No Democrat or Republican in the White House or the Congress was voted in that caused the US to get things like minimum wage laws, Social Security, workplace safety laws, etc. -- these things were won by the labor movement. During the Depression, when faced with the very real possibility of a mass, armed revolt, the labor movement had a sympathizer in the White House. He was also a racist who supported the killing of hundreds of thousands of women and girls and others in Japan, Germany and elsewhere. He interned thousands of children in camps in the United States. He was a Democrat.
What about all these homeless women and girls in this country, living in tents after losing their homes because of the Great Financial Crisis that began at the end of the Bush years? Which itself was a direct result of Bill Clinton's deregulation of the financial sector. After eight years of Obama and Clinton ruling the country, did any bankers go to prison for that? Have the people living in tents been given houses? No? Not even the women or LGBTQ or Black or Brown tent-dwellers? But now you expect something different?
Ah, but Trump is a racist and a misogynist and will lower taxes on the rich. Did you know that taxes on the rich were much higher under Reagan and every previous administration, Republican and Democratic, going back decades before him? This is not because of who we voted for. This was because of the times. There were social movements back then, demanding rights. There was a post-WWII consensus here and in many other countries that temporarily gave working class people some modicum of dignity under the law. No longer. By bipartisan consensus in the early 1970's, as the 1960's social movements were fizzling out or being killed off or imprisoned (or all of the above and more), that all started to change.
But hey, what do I know. I'm a privileged white male. And, according to some of you on Facebook, I am therefore voting (and presumably acting in life in general) out of this identity. Wow -- that's the hardest bullshit to counter of all, because it's so crazy. Has identity politics devolved to the point where now we think everybody is only acting out of their own self interest? Is there not even the concept of solidarity in existence among this sorry collection of confused people anymore? Is there no way to identify oneself except by race, gender and sexual orientation anymore? Does nothing else matter?
When Hitler came to power, the first thing he did was arrest lots and lots of white people -- men and women. They were called communists. Many of them, in fact, were communists. Communism was and is a political philosophy. You can be a communist no matter what your race, gender or sexual orientation is. And if a government comes to power that feels threatened by this historically potent political philosophy, you can be arrested, tortured and killed for being a communist. Lots of people around the world have been arrested, tortured and killed for being communists. Most of them were not white. A very large percentage of them were women. In Germany they were mostly white. (By the modern US definition of whiteness, anyway, which includes Jews, I think. But most of them were even whiter than that.)
Of course, maybe Trump will only arrest the nonwhite, female, or LGBTQ communists. Maybe he'll blow up the world. Maybe Clinton will. Maybe they both will. I don't know and I know that you don't, either (even Michael Moore and Bruce Springsteen don't know). You can make whatever assumptions you want to make, and I'll make mine.
But here's one thing I know, which my critics obviously don't: we live in an evil, capitalist empire, led by evil capitalists like Trump, and their surrogates, like Clinton. We will never get anywhere by voting for evil people. We need a mass movement, which, historically, is the only thing that has caused lasting change to occur in this country, aside from global events such as the rise of the Soviet Union. Democracy is in the streets. Literally. I voted for a woman named Jill Stein and a man named Ahjamu Baraka. Not because I think this or any other national US election particularly matters, but because it only takes a few minutes to fill out a ballot and stick in the mail, and there were some local people worth voting for who might actually get into Portland City Council, which is currently run by "liberal" Democratic pawns of capitalist real estate developers, like so many other US cities.
Now I will get on with more important business of attempting to play my small role in fomenting the kind of movement that we need, to oppose the capitalist empire-builder who occupies the White House now, and who will be occupying the White House on January 21st, 2017. Whoever he or she may be.