instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

My daily heresy

I'm thinking the act of voting is the least important act a Catholic can perform as a citizen. To put it another way, the importance of casting a vote is inversely proportional to the hand-wringing done over how to decide whom to vote for.

This, I'm told, is unthinkable by any decent American. Don't I know how many people have fought and died for my right to cast a vote for the people I want to represent me?

But consider:

Every election cycle, American Catholics like me start worrying about how to vote. We try to construct a heuristic guide:
  1. If no candidate is opposed to all legalized abortion, go to step 4.
  2. If one candidate is opposed to all legalized abortion, go to step 9.
  3. If more than one candidate is opposed to all legalized abortion, go to step 17.
  4. ...
Some Catholics live in districts where they can automatically start at Step 4. Others see voting a straight anti-abortion ticket as folly -- and not without reason; the major policy initiative of the only pro-life candidate on the ballot to represent me in the House of Representatives last election was to make the secret UFO technology the government was hiding available to the public.

In any case, a lot of us spend a lot of time essentially trying to construct -- or wishing our bishops or the Vatican would give us -- a manual of moral voting.

But you know what? I get one vote. So does everyone else. I have never been in an election for public office in which my vote determined the winner. And where I now live, the people I vote for rarely win at all.

So all of my "o is this material cooperation in evil" whinging is utterly disproportionate to the actual, observable effect of my vote -- which is at most to increment a handful of numbers by less than 0.05%, and often a couple of orders of magnitude less than that.

Meanwhile, letters go unwritten, politicians go unmet, rallies go unorganized, procedures go unreformed, governments go unpersuaded, political parties go unfounded, petitions go unsigned.

Voting is the lazy man's measure of citizenship. We're called to more, and people like me who spend all their political energy worrying about how to vote aren't answering the call.