I was riding along with my cousin yesterday, on the way to a client’s site to set up some networking equipment, and he struck up a conversation about voting. I told him I had decided to go ahead and register to vote. This represented a change from my previous position. Both he and my wife don’t understand why I don’t much care for voting, considering my interest in politics. Anyway, he urged me to vote, as he will, for John Kerry. I said “f—k Kerry. What’s the difference? A lot of people are only upset with George W. Bush because he has that ‘R’ in the parentheses after his name rather than the ‘D’.” He told me flat out that’s how he was. So, even if the policies are identical, the party makes a difference. What actual differences are people expecting between the Bush and Kerry administrations? Just about every Democrat congressperson around said that, knowing that Iraq had no WMD, no links to Al Qaeda, and no formidable military said they would have still voted to give the President the authority to launch a preemptive war. This, to me, is sheer lunacy. What is the point of even having the Constitution, which says that Congress has sole power to declare war, if Congress can simply delegate the responsibility to the Executive branch. How is this different from having a dictator with a puppet legislature? He said “Do you want Bush to win?”, looking at me goggle-eyed.

I replied that I did not, in fact want Bush to win. I also, however, did not want Kerry to win. If I had my druthers, the position would be unfilled and unfillable. To which he replied “Rob, somebody’s gotta run the country.” I get tired of that argument. I really got a little ticked, I suppose. I immediately replied, “You know, back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the same sort of argument was made in favor of slavery. 'Somebody has got to tell the niggers what to do. They would be completely out of control if left to their own devices. What would we do without massah?'" I don’t agree with that argument in the past, and I don’t agree with its analog in the present. Humanity does not need a dictator. Some, perhaps, do, and I say let those people turn themselves over to a ruler of their choosing. But don’t force the rest of us to join you on your mad journey into slavery.

I don't know if I made him think or hurt his feelings, because he simply smiled faintly, said "you're right about that" and didn't talk anymore for a while. When we resumed conversation, it was on other subjects, which was probably for the best. Politics and religion are touchy subjects and are usually best left out of family relations. But his attitude shook me. He really seems to think of the President as properly being an elected dictator, rather than a servant who must be watched lest he run off with the silverware and let rooms in your house. True, the President of the United States is effectively an elected dictator, but I don't see how this is anything particularly desireable.

I am not free.

I've come to live with the idea that any notional freedom I may ever have held as self evidently mine has been permanently and irrevocably exchanged; I have traded in - or others have traded it in on my behalf - my freedom for a myriad little comforts that in a more innocent time I may have thought of as my rights: but now I see them for what they are, blood money, hush money, a trade off, a whoring of a spirit not strong enough to stand alone.

When I was young, I took it for granted that my parents fed me, clothed me, doctored and taught me. But it was not granted, it was bought: the price I paid for my upbringing was respect, subservience, unconditional affection and two and a half miserable years playing the cello. Among much else.

When I got married, I gave up my rights to casual sex, eating shellfish at home and leaving used tampons unflushed in the toilet bowl. I also relinquished any imaginary claim to ownership of anything electric or technological in my home - not to mention the use of my floor for anything other than sock disposal. But for this price - which may be great or small, depending on one's point of view - I purchased companionship, love, shared hobbies and a pair of perpetually warm feet on cold nights. Marriage is better than an electric blanket.

When you are born, you are born into a sort of slavery. The state you live in rules you like the piece of collateral you are. It dictates which facts and disciplines you will be allowed to study, what if any healthcare you will be administered in times of need, what routes - along officially sanctioned demarcations known as motorways - you will take to get from point A to point B. What drugs you will indulge in - or else. Which property can be legitimately considered your own. Who you will, one day, if all goes well, be able to marry. And for that you get hot and cold running water, lights on darkened streets, some level of protection from the imprecations of others and many other small conveniences, not least amongst them a slightly reduced chance of being the civilian casualty of warfare.

So yeah, fine. We're none of us free. I can live with that. But the one consolation of democracy is supposed to be the ability to influence, in however small a way, who your masters are. More importantly, it means the ability to kick them up the bejeesus and back to their ancestral ranches if they don't deliver satisfactorily on their side of the bargain. If they are writing checks that their policies can't cover, you bounce the checks - and you bounce them.

My friends over the Atlantic, you have been cheated of one half of this immense small privilege. Somebody took your freedom without your consent, and is running around investing it in more widespread enslavement. So I implore you, rise up and show them that you are savvy businesspeople and that you won't let yourselves be swindled twice. Not because John Kerry is a better slave master than other slave masters, but so that all the past and potential slave masters re-learn this very important lesson: we may be slaves, but we're not powerless. And we're not bloody stupid.

I can't influence the outcome of the forthcoming elections in the US, because I am not a US citizen, nor do I live in the US. But my life is being influenced every day by the actions and reactions of this political, economic and military juggernaut we call America, and as such I feel that in some small way I am entitled to wield a tiny little whip over those who will always have the whip hand over me. So I'm asking you, as a favour to me, as a mark of respect to your fellow slaves in the rest of the world, a gesture of brotherhood perhaps: don't let them get away with it twice. Not because they are good or evil but because you as slaves need to assert whatever influence you still have, before that little is lost for good.

Anyone but Bush.

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