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US Elections: ‘Lesser of Two Evils’ No More

US Elections: ‘Lesser of Two Evils’ No More


By Ramzy Baroud

Since I obtained my right to vote in the US presidential elections years ago, I was frequently reminded to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” Thus I never cast a vote.

I still recall the exhilaration that permeated me when I was first granted the right to be part of a collective democratic process that will ultimately define a future I envision for my loved ones and myself.

Prior to that, I lived in a refugee camp in Gaza under Israeli military rule. At times, it felt as if my right to exist was itself unresolved. I held a quasi travel document where my nationality was “undefined”.

Only a few years separated my “undefined” status and my right to play apart in selecting the president of the United States. It all came down to a few seconds in a draped booth, or so it seemed. But the chasm that separated the past and the present was unfathomable.

I never took freedom for granted. In the first half of my conscious life, I comprehended the concept through the method of deduction: Freedom was everything that life in Gaza was not. In the later years, I vowed to use my newly attained right to make the world a better place.

I often wonder why, despite having very strong opinions regarding politics, social justice and economic equality or disparity, I am yet to vote, even once. Maybe it’s the overpoliticization of the refugee camp, where half solutions are shunned. Or perhaps it’s my belief that remedying an ailment with another can be equally deadly.

To me, it mattered little whether President Bill Clinton’s Desert Fox bombing campaign in Iraq in 1998 rested on a different justification than the bombing campaigns of his predecessor or successor. The killing of innocent people and the transgression on the sovereignty of any country is unjustifiable whether the bombs are dropped by a decision sanctioned by a Democrat or a Republican.

And so went my logic, although it was eventually freed from the ethnic and religious boundaries to include an array of subjects that concern many Americans such as education, healthcare and the environment.

But the spurious polarization of the American political system quickly disillusioned me. To begin with, I am an Arab-American, a member of an unrecognized minority whose voting weight falls short of generating worthy lip service by presidential candidates during election seasons.

Additionally, almost in all instances, foreign policy issues that matter most to me often remained the victim of whichever fallacious policies presidential candidates championed. In the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict for example, candidates most often compete for the pro-Israeli lobbies’ endorsement to a revolting extent.

“Herzl’s famous words — ‘If you will it, it is no dream’ — signify the promise and the greatest powers of Israel ... we as Americans must be the truest and the best kind of ally. We must be committed to support Israel in the exacting, essential search for that dream.” That was one of the many tributes audaciously paid to Israel by the Democratic nominee for president, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Kerry, who is also in support of Israel’s illegal Separation Wall and occupation of the West Bank is seen by many as the antidote for President George Bush’s insensible foreign policy.

In remarks to reporters while on a tour in Tampa, Florida early March, Kerry accused Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat of missing an “historic opportunity and he’s proved himself to be irrelevant.”

Making Arafat “irrelevant” had of course defined Bush’s political framework toward the Middle East’s most serious conflict since his term in office. Interestingly, it was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who devised the term and put it into practice by the physical confinement of Arafat to his bombed-out West Bank headquarters. Bush followed rank, and so shall Kerry, if elected president. On Iraq, incumbent Bush and Kerry are also in agreement, despite the latter’s attempt to overstate the cosmetic differences.

Although now dwelling on Bush’s futile Iraqi WMD hunt, Kerry himself was involved in the charade, years ago. In 1998, he joined several Republican senators in an urgent appeal to Clinton to bomb Iraq, in order to “respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction program.” Such complicity has been completely dropped from Kerry’s current WMD charges against Bush.

Once again, I stand facing the same dilemma. My eagerness to exercise my right to vote remains unequalled. However, the “lesser of two evils” remains irresolute.

Whether Kerry was the most “electable” among Democrats or that the rejection of Bush’s unwarranted policies is a legitimate enough a reason to support his rival, the future is grim with both.

What is needed is the courage to break the dominance of the traditional political elite and the interests they represent, which always remain unchanged regardless of who claims the throne of the White House.

The problem is even made more chronic by the erroneous logic that seeking a third way is wasteful; therefore conscious candidates such as Ralph Nader are snubbed as “spoilers”.

Many years after living in the United States, I came to the conclusion that a vote cast in a few seconds behind a draped booth entails a greater responsibility than meets the eye. It’s a consequential decision that can cause human lives to be wasted or spared.

As for my vote, education matters, so does the economy. But ending the reign of big corporations, political elite and our country’s obsession with total and pre-emptive war doctrines matter most.

For once, I do intend to use my privilege to vote, for no lesser of two evils, but for Ralph Nader. We must start somewhere, somewhere worthy of representing the first step toward making the world a better place, for Americans and everyone else.

***********

- Ramzy Baroud is an Arab-American journalist.


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