Not voting is immoral

the ethics of voting/not voting

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Not voting is immoral

Below you'll find the column which will run in the 11/27 issue of the Forest Park Review.  I'd like to read your comments before it goes out.

           I’m going to say it straight out.  In my opinion, not voting on Nov. 2 is immoral.  I’ll even go so far as to call it a sin of omission.

           I made the above statement for two reasons.  First, because I think it’s true.  Not only do I think there is something inherently virtuous about voting, but also because, as I see it, the acrimonious polarization we observe in political ads on TV right now is due in part to people not voting.

            Back during the primaries, how many people voted?  What, maybe ten or fifteen percent.  The people most motivated to participate in the choosing of whom the candidates would be were the most extreme, radical and contentious folks out there.  By abdicating their duty to vote, moderates got in many cases candidates they either can’t relate to or can’t stand.  And then they complain that our political system is all screwed up.  To me, that’s like the little leaguer throwing his glove on the ground after missing a fly ball.

            My second reason for making the above statement in the way I did is my concern that for many people, personal ethics is no longer a relevant category, no longer a consideration when making decisions—especially when it comes to liberals.  It’s like psychology and anthropology have trumped ethics in liberal minds. 

            The military and the religious right use terms like virtue, duty, right and wrong, good and evil and virtue and vice all the time, but liberals seem to think that these terms don’t apply to personal behavior.  They’ll use words like racism and justice when they talk about systematic issues, but they’ll respond with “don’t tell me how to raise my kid” if you give them advice about parenting. 

            For example, when it comes to personal morality—sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, recreational drugs, abortion—my liberal friends will tend to use language like “I’m comfortable/not comfortable with that” rather than it’s right or wrong.  They are thinking psychologically rather than in ethical terms.

            Richard Weissbourd—The Parents We Mean to Be—argues that liberal parents are more concerned with their children feeling good about themselves than about learning to do good.  Commenting on a study he conducted in high schools and focus groups the Harvard psychologist stated, “Many of us slip into habits in the name of promoting happiness—such as regularly monitoring and seeking to adjust our children’s moods, organizing our lives too much around our children, and praising them too frequently—that are likely to make children not only less moral but, ironically, less happy.”

            Anthropologist Joseph Campbell is often quoted as advising people to “follow their bliss.”  His work on the diversity of cultures in the world and the discipline of anthropology in general has contributed to the dominance of relativism in many of our neighbors’—and maybe our own--ethical thinking. 

            Here’s an example from many years ago.  When I was working as the night manager at a college student union, I caught a student taking food from the cafeteria kitchen late at night.  When I told him that I’d have to write him up, he responded with, “Tom, don’t put your white, honky values on me.”  In my report I said that he was stealing.

            Now some people will accuse me of laying a guilt trip on them for not voting.  My response is, “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”  Sure, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on psycho-therapy trying to get rid of the toxic guilt I absorbed while growing up, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. 

            Again, Weissbourd.  “Emotions such as shame, guilt, and fear protect us as a society—to avoid shame and guilt, we follow moral standards and rules, refrain from aggression, cruelty, arrogance, greed. . . .Because moderate amounts of these painful emotions are constructive in these ways, it’s perilous when adults seek to erase them from children’s lives.”

            So, organize your life in such a way that you’ll have time to visit your assigned polling place next Tuesday.  Go on line to the Independent Voters of Illinois or the League of Women Voters to get the information that you’re not getting in the attack ads you’re being bombarded with.  Get out there and vote.  It’s the right thing to do.

Reader Comments

2 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Violet Aura  

Posted: October 30th, 2010 2:35 PM

Sorry but I disagree with your premise. If we are presented with candidates who are already proven to be corrupt or associated with corruption, we should still vote anyway? I am beginning to think the Amish have it right: leave the worldly crap to the worldly people.

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: October 27th, 2010 9:54 AM

I'm always a little wary of anyone that purports to tell me what is moral and what is immoral. Slavery and the Holocaust were immoral. Choosing whether or not to participate in an election is closer to choosing whether or not to floss. Maybe it's a good idea, but it is without moral implication.

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