Oct 17, 2016
At Fayetteville Freethinker meetings there is sometimes a “How I Lost My Religion” segment. Here is mine. Normally I like to cite all the rational reasons for not voting. Your vote in a national election is meaningless, as the standup philosopher George Carlin noted. The probability of your vote making any difference whatsoever is billions to one. You have a better chance of getting struck by a lightning bolt twice on the way to the polls, than having your vote make or break a tie. And there is the fact that it is irrational to even study issues or candidates, since for voting you don’t get your choice. You get other people’s choice. But my writing coach, Richard Drake, says I should forget all that logic stuff, and tell a personal story instead. People are too stupid, in general, to give a crap about critical thinking. They want a nice human story. Okay.
I was born an anarchist and an atheist. As a babe, I knew nothing about the existence or not of States and Gods. I didn’t even know the concepts. But my parents were voters. They were hard core “liberals,” meaning they were statists who favor government robbery schemes “for the public good,” but they opposed military interventionism (in Vietnam) and supported (some) civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, being solid members of the ACLU. My mother was the hard core voter, a member and sometimes president of the League of Women Voters - the evangelistic Southern Baptist Church of statists, so to speak.
With this background, I was indoctrinated into believing all the usual faith-based dogmas of sugar-coated (“democratic”) statism, e.g. voting is a civic duty, if you don’t vote you can’t complain, voting makes a difference in government policy, and so on. I can’t believe how stupid and ignorant I was! I proudly voted in every presidential election from 1976 to 1996. My candidate never got more than one or two percent of the vote, but as a true believer I did it anyway.
Toward the end of the millennium, I started figuring it out. I read “The Machinery of Freedom” and other anarchist literature, and read Brian Caplan’s paper on rational ignorance. But enough of that rational stuff! The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” came in 1996, with California Proposition 215.
I lived in San Francisco, and voted religiously. I was often the first person at the polling place, so I could console myself that, for thirty seconds or so, the Libertarian Party candidate was leading. (When your guy gets only 1% of the vote, you have to reach.) At this time in San Francisco, medical marijuana was illegal by law, but the law was not enforced (much) so actually it was de facto legal. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic. The dispensaries were not just tolerated, but respected. One famous Mother Teresa of Marijuana was named Brownie Mary. She was once arrested for giving cannabis to AIDS patients in a hospice. The judge solemnly heard the case, and sentenced her to … six months community service giving marijuana to AIDS patients!
“Cannabis clubs” were scattered all over the city, mostly in nondescript locations, but there was one major one on the City’s main drag, Market Street, called “Cannabis Cultivators and Buyers Club.” The police, the local prosecuting attorney, and most of the people tolerated, if not enjoyed, the cannabis clubs. But don’t forget, they were illegal by state and federal law.
Proposition 215 came along in 1996, the nation’s first medical marijuana initiative to pass. After all my decades of voting, losing 99 to 1 virtually every time, I finally voted for something that passed! Hallelujah! So what happened? Within a few months a scumbag politician named Dan Lungren, the California Attorney General who had his eye on the governor’s office, brought in the Feds - federal goons, jackboots - against the wishes of the local police, the mayor, the prosecutor, and the recently passed 215 - and shut down the Cannabis Cultivators and Buyers Club and virtually all the others!
My momma didn’t raise no fool! Here we had de facto legal marijuana when it was formally illegal, and enforced authoritarian prohibition after it became legal. So I learned something very important: What matters most is local custom, not formal law. Also, that voting isn’t worth shit - it’s a con for suckers, to make them think they have some power.
So, I haven’t voted in a national or state election since. That is how I lost my faith. I am proud to say that I have not voted this millennium. (Except for local elections in self-defense.) I do not expect to ever vote for a candidate again, since I want no master. When I want something to change in my community, I will use moral suasion, ridicule, boycott, and other non-violent means; I will not beg politicians to rob or control my neighbors. I am sure others have stories about why they refuse to vote. I would love to hear them.