Letters to the Editor do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee”
Thus wrote John Donne in the 17th century. “No Man is an Island” is the bane to every socially anxious person and independence loving Walden-thumpers.
So why did I make you read a 400 year old poem?
Because I read Max Berman’s latest column “Why I’m Not Going to Vote” and while I was reading it, Donne’s pronouncement kept repeating in my head. No man is an island. No man is an island. No man is an island…
So now for the second time since I quit the DFP, I’m sending in an op-ed via a letter to the editor to help fight what I see as logically sound but deeply flawed argument.
Here is Max’s argument.
P1) He lives in a comfortably blue state, district, etc.
P2) There are no ballot initiatives or candidates that interest him.
P3) The only votes that matter are those in competitive districts.
- C) He isn’t voting.
To “justify” his decision he gives a history lesson about 250 years of voter disenfranchisement, population densities, and all those fun things we’ve all heard about endlessly via revisionist TED Talks and discussions of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States or How Democratic is the American Constitution?” by Robert A. Dahl (a great book about how important it is to vote) in coffee shops. Max is not apathetic like everyone else; he cares, but not enough to vote in this election. To use a baseball analogy, he’ll tune in for the World Series when he stakes are high, but not for a regular Sox game with average stakes.
While I could criticize the DFP’s decision for running an op-ed that is a pastiche of a Facebook post’s comment section and NowThis News videos next to my good friend Pat Burke’s much more interesting column on Whitey Bulger, I think it’s more productive to talk about why you should get a flu shot.
Yes, you read that right. “What?” You should vote because the flu sucks. “Okay, you’re losing me, man.” Let me explain.
During the flu season my freshman year my economics professor tried explaining some concept (I think it was “Obamacare”) using the following example. The reason, he said, you, a perfectly healthy person, get a flu shot is because some people don’t have the time or money to get a flu shot. By remaining unvaccinated you increase the possibility of being a carrier and thus an infector. But if you get a flu shot, you lower someone else’s chances of getting the flu. No man is an island.
When you tell someone you are not going to vote (or publish an op-ed about your decision in a prominent campus newspaper) you end up affecting people. Yes, you may only affect people like me who have already voted. But by expressing that you are not voting, you may end up convincing someone, who is less motivated to spend the time and money on voting, to not vote. Then that person can end up infecting someone else and then eventually you get a bunch of group of apathetic people that don’t vote but still love ranting about the president, Congress, and all the other monsters that lurk in the dark. No man is an island.
Over the last two years, when I hear my friends complain about Trump or his administration’s cartoon villain antics, I ask them who they voted for. When someone says Hillary, I nod, and remind them to vote in the midterms. When someone says Trump, I remind them that they got what they paid for. It’s always interesting to hear them argue that they thought he wasn’t going to do what he said he was going to do. Whenever I hear someone, as stubborn as he is, in a position of power saying they’re going to do something, I know they are going to try their hardest to do it. Finally, when I hear someone tell me that they didn’t vote, I tell them to stop complaining and to kindly shut the (fill in the blank) up.
WHAT? Is this some PC liberal thought crime crap? No. I believe that if you didn’t even try to do something about something that is bothering or will bother you than you can’t complain about it. A fly will continue to buzz around your head until you hit it with a fly swatter.
Whenever you go to a bar, you have to pay a cover. If you don’t pay the cover, you aren’t allowed in. So you pay the cover and go in. Whether or not you have a fun night at the bar, you are allowed to praise or complain about the night all you want. But now imagine one of your friends, Dave, didn’t want to pay the cover and went home. The next day during brunch Dave starts complaining about how the bartender was so rude or that Sally throwing up on the DJ killed the night. You would think that Dave is insane and would promptly take away his mimosa. No man is an island.
Now I can already hear people saying that I am disrespecting people that didn’t vote in protest or chose not to because they didn’t want to vote for the better of two evils. First, It’s silly to not vote out of protest because nothing doesn’t cause something. Yes, technically not voting is an action, but it’s not a productive one. Second, by not voting you’re making someone else’s vote count more. Perhaps, even someone whom you disagree with.
Not voting is also not civil disobedience. Henry David Thoreau, the author of the essay so many people taut as their mantra, wrote that essay after being thrown in jail for tax evasion. He didn’t pay his taxes because he didn’t support the war that the president was waging. He tried opposing him legally by voting but that wasn’t enough. Civil disobedience happens after you’ve tried every legal avenue. No man is an island.
Although I am a pessimist, I am not a fatalist. Last year I put a sticker of Arthur Schopenhauer, perhaps the most famous pessimist philosopher, on the inside of my laptop. He’s not staring at me because I want to bow before him everyday and say how right he is but instead to force me to think about his ideas and try to prove him wrong.
Most days it is hard to refute pessimism. The world seems to just be getting worse and worse. Yes, there is some sunshine today but look at all those clouds!
But some days I say to Schopenhauer’s big head and gorilla face that the world is not destined to be horrible. You have to try every day to prove your inner pessimist wrong and not given into comforting fatalism and its twin brother, apathy.
No man is an island.