Today is the first Tuesday in November. A voting day. I’ve voted since I was eighteen. I remember standing in the booth that first time thinking how much power I wielded as I randomly selected names from a list of people I didn’t know. I thought about voodoo dolls – and whether Bruce Some-last-name, competing for Clerk of Courts, got a little tingle when I chose him instead of the other guy. Then I thought about how stupid I was for not knowing what the hell I was doing. How irresponsible it was for me to just go down a list and pick people based on their names or whether they sounded white or black (I always picked the black people because I thought they were underdogs.) I was an uninformed voter, but by God I was an American and it was my privilege to vote. Since having children, I’ve proudly taken them to the polls with me to help instill in them a sense of civic duty.

Today, however, I am not voting. After 30 years, I’m just done. Sure, there are important bonds at stake in Charlotte, and a mayoral race to decide. And I hope you all make the right decisions, but I won’t be voting with you. Or against you. I’ve lost my faith in the system. And don’t worry, I won’t bitch about the decisions you make.

From the time we’re in grade school, Americans are told that voting is the greatest right of any civilization in the world. That we control our own fate. That our vote matters. Only, since 2000, it’s seemed as though our votes don’t mean anything. The only thing that matters is money. The money that is poured into the system by special interests determines who and what we vote for. It takes money to launch and sustain political campaigns. It takes money to pay someone to craft compelling messages that mobilize masses. It takes money to buy advertising. And raising the money necessary to do all of this means making promises to people with money. In the end, money usually gets its way. And the idea that our tiny little vote matters becomes a tool of dogma cloaked as duty designed to keep the masses in line.

Yes, it’s still the best system on earth, it’s just completely fucked over by special interests (and gerrymandering) that prefer we fight each other instead of the real issue – the ungodly inequitable distribution of wealth in America. Wealth equals power in this country. Power to control, well, everything. Especially government.

Since 2000, I think most Americans would agree that our government has been dysfunctional. We’ve grown so divided that we can barely stand to live alongside one another when our neighbor doesn’t share our political ideals. This is what happens when we care more about money than people. About petty politics than important concepts. When we shove our heads so far up our own asses that we no longer see the real problems we face as a country.

Not voting today is a baby step in a new direction–away from this mess we’ve made.

Good luck at the polls. I admire your faith in the system. I’ve lost mine.




The Boy

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.