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Charles Cutter

Suicide by Ballot
By Charles Cutter (
Nov 4, 2004 - 4:21:00 PM

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Police officers are familiar with the phenomenon whereby an individual - through despair, desperation, and/or insanity - orchestrates an event that forces the police to end their life. The technical term is "victim precipitated homicide."

The police call it "suicide by cop."

Examining the results of the presidential race, we’re now faced with an electorate - motivated by a combination of fear, hatred, and religious/cultural intolerance - that seek to destroy the very heart of our democracy through the voting booth.

Let’s call it "suicide by ballot."

Fifty-nine million Americans - a slight but sufficient majority - will not have the luxury to claim retroactive ignorance in the years to come. George W. Bush, in his first term as president, showed us his vision of America - where capitalism means corporate welfare and unbridled greed, where U.S. soldiers are handmaidens to Halliburton, where the anti-abortion candidate slaughters Iraqi children. With another term in office - coupled with Republican gains in the House and Senate, and the attendant freedom to replace retiring Supreme Court justices with radical activists - America’s dark fate has been sealed for decades to come.

It’s the will of the slim majority. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes, the Bush supporters "don’t just favor different policies than I do - they favor a whole different kind of America. We don’t just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is."

Who are these people?

They support the separation of church and state in matters of taxation, but believe we should have Christian prayers and the Ten Commandments in public schools and courtrooms. They believe in God and Jesus and a blissful afterlife in Heaven, but are irrationally afraid of facing death in a terrorist attack.

They believe the government has no business keeping track of gun purchases, but it’s okay for the Justice Department to monitor your medical history and check your library interests, to search your house without your knowledge. They argue for "less government interference" in people’s lives, while simultaneously arguing that women should be legally forced to endure a full-term pregnancy, and that gay Americans should be denied their civil rights.

Indeed, homophobia runs rampant throughout this country and is a major issue among Mr. Bush’s constituency. On Tuesday, proposed state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages passed overwhelmingly everywhere they appeared on the ballot. Nine of these states voted in favor of Mr. Bush, while in the other two - Oregon and Michigan - the measures passed, but with significantly smaller margins of victory.

The key state was Ohio, where Mr. Bush’s slim majority - which put him over the top electorally - may well have been the result of the anti-gay measure. It’s been credited with the strong Republican turnout in the areas of the state dominated by evangelical Christians.

The so-called "cultural divide" may, in fact, be unbridgeable.

A Kerry campaign worker in West Virginia, working door-to-door, reported an encounter with a six year old girl. Upon seeing the "Kerry for President" literature, the child said, "He’s the man that kills babies," a reference to Mr. Kerry’s pro-choice stance. Obviously indoctrinated by her parents, this illustrates the enormity of the challenge: How do you reason with people who embrace both Mr. Bush’s pro-life rhetoric and his "bring-it-on" bloodlust?

In Ray Bradbury’s prescient short story, "A Sound of Thunder," several time travelers take a trip to the age of dinosaurs. They depart just after a presidential election, celebrating the loss of an extreme right-wing candidate: "’If Deutscher had gotten in, we’d have the worst kind of dictatorship. There’s an anti-everything man for you, a militarist…anti-human, anti-intellectual…’" While in the past, one man inadvertently steps on an insect, setting forth a chain of events over millions of years. When the men return to the present, they find an altered world, an America leaning toward fascism. Asking who won the election, they’re told, "’You know damn well. Deutscher, of course! Who else? Not that damn weakling Keith. We got an iron man now, a man with guts, by God!"

Mr. Bradbury suggests that humanity’s core of decency is a fragile thing, that seemingly minor events create opportunities for catastrophic change.

In his story, it all begins with the death of an insect.

Specifically, a butterfly.

In Palm Beach County, Florida, in 2000, candidate Pat Buchanan received an unexpected 3,407 votes. Even he admitted it was a mistake, the result of a confusing ballot; most of the votes were obviously intended for Al Gore.

Those votes were far more than needed to tip the election away from George W. Bush.

And this would have meant no war with Iraq, which would have meant thousands of people still living who have since been brutally killed. It’s reasonable to speculate that we would have seen the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden. Certainly - barring the Iraq war and Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy - we would not be facing record budget deficits as far as the eye can see.

All resulting from a clumsy ballot layout.

Specifically, the infamous "butterfly" ballot.

A seemingly small thing, but the impact is immeasurable - and it’s only starting.

And it didn’t take millions of years.

© Copyright 2002-2013 by Magic City Morning Star

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