There’s a lot of talk of privilege, lately, especially as it pertains to the coming election. We’ve watched friends, colleagues and even celebrities discouraging people from voting for Dr. Jill Stein and accusing potential third party voters of being vile sexists, who retain a level of white male privilege so astounding that they would put their own childish desire for “payback” above the well-being of the country. We’ve heard people characterize their new-found support of Hillary Clinton as “putting on my big-boy pants” and being “pragmatic.” We’ve even been subjected to ridiculously misguided attempts at brow-beating people into voting for Hillary Clinton using this tired, verbal bludgeon: “A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.”
Interestingly enough, there are a few types of privilege that I’ve hardly seen discussed anywhere this election season. These privileges are what allow so many people to believe with righteous conviction that Hillary Clinton is the lesser evil, and to believe so fervently that it is their right–nay, their responsibility!–to bully and berate the rest of us until we understand that our refusal to get on board can only be due to our hatred of women, LGBT people and minorities.
Part One: Elite Privilege – People in Middle America Need a Change
You probably already understand the dynamics of white privilege and male privilege, and how those types of privilege are detrimental to minorities in this country. But have you considered that anyone who lives in a Metropolitan area in the United States actually benefits from an elite level of privilege that people who live in rural America are not privy to? For residents of major American cities and the surrounding areas, there is more opportunity, more room for social advancement and better quality higher education than anywhere else in the world. There is also more diversity, more culture and, in general, a much more convenient lifestyle than anywhere else in the country. That privilege makes it hard for those of us who live in New York or California to understand or even see why Donald Trump’s rhetoric would be very appealing to the poor and middle class people of Middle America.
If you only read one link in this whole essay, please make it that last one, because for someone who champions empathy for oppressed people but then turns around and writes off Trump supporters as a bunch of racists and idiots, it could be very illuminating. The people who live in these areas are used to being mostly ignored by politicians, who make empty promises about job growth to get elected, but generally play to their corporate donors once in office. Since most of these states are along the Bible Belt, many of these people usually vote Republican, because if they can’t vote for their betterment, they can at least vote for their values. You may not agree with many of those values, but they are the values that most of the people who are raised in these areas buy into.
Now, along comes Donald Trump, who says to them, “Hey, I see you! I hear you! I’m on your side, and addressing your struggle is my number one priority!” Of course, it comes with a heaping dose of racism, but here’s the thing: to say that these people deserve to suffer poverty and the hopelessness that comes with a lack of opportunity because they are more racist than we are comfortable with is like saying that it’s okay for a police officer to shoot an unarmed person of color as long as they have a criminal record. You don’t get to claim to be the kinder, more enlightened party (as Democrats do) and then turn your back on people who are among the ranks of the less fortunate in this country because their politics offend you.
If you’ve studied racism at all, you might be aware that a prevailing notion among experts is that there aren’t actually “racist people” and “not racist people.” We are all racist to different degrees, from David Duke and other white supremacists, who are unabashedly and sometimes militantly racist; to Republican politicians like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who claim to be horrified by David Duke’s support of Donald Trump, but will still champion racist immigration policies; to Black Lives Matter activists and people like Bernie Sanders at the other end of the spectrum, who understand that in order to eliminate racism, we must each challenge our own preconceived notions, refuse to allow our baser instincts to dictate how we treat others, and bring pressure to bear on institutions that don’t treat all people equably. That means that while there are unquestionably a number of people voting for Donald Trump who are more than a little racist, if a Trump supporter is insisting that they are not voting for him because they hate minorities, there’s at least a chance that they’re not lying. The case may just be that on the racism/bigotry spectrum, they fall somewhere in the middle, where they aren’t out to harm people of color or LGBT people, but being “not racist” is not a very high priority for them. They just don’t care as much about the struggles of minorities as they do about their own struggles, and they believe that electing Donald Trump is their best chance at a better life.
Nevertheless, many folks on Team Trump are deeply racist or otherwise irrational, and therefore unreachable; there is nothing to be done about them. But for the others, verbal abuse and harassment are tools of hatred that have no ability to change a person’s mind, or heart. We should not wield them so readily against people that we could possibly make allies of. If you have any hope of convincing someone to change their position, you must begin by attempting to understand why they hold that position to begin with, and avoid demonizing them for trying to improve their situation in what they consider to be the only way available to them.
Can you really blame these desperate people for voting in what they perceive is their own best interest, even if getting what they want means that other people will possibly suffer greatly?
Yes. Yes, you can blame them; I’m sure you would agree. Wrong is wrong, even if you’re desperate, and at the end of the day, if there is any harm done to the minorities in this country, it won’t matter whether a voter’s stated intention was to harm them or it was just a side effect. Besides, to the people outside of Trump’s sphere of influence, it is obvious that not only is he encouraging xenophobic and Islamaphobic sentiment, but he has no intention of helping the people he’s targeting anyway. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t know how. He is a bad and, yes, even a terrifying candidate and he should not become president.
In fact, that sums up the major argument to vote for Hillary Clinton. Some of you assess the situation this far and come to the imperative conclusion, “I must vote for Clinton to stop Trump.” The rest of us arrive at that same conclusion, but take it a step further and ask, “Then, who will stop Clinton?”
I realize that this question might be confusing or even seem ridiculous to you if you believe that Hillary has been unfairly maligned and picked on for years simply because she’s an ambitious woman and that Bill and Hillary Clinton are some of the most charitable, philanthropic people in the country. But I’m even seeing “lesser evil” voters, who claim that they don’t like Hillary, defending her with a vengeance against all of the recent claims that have been brought against her. The idea that all of the scrutiny that has been brought to bear against the Clintons is because they’re somehow actually too good and the forces of evil will stop at nothing to muddy their name is a silly fairy tale, and it’s frankly ironic that people who claim to be “pragmatic” would buy into it. A truly pragmatic person would admit that where there’s smoke there’s usually fire, and no one is surrounded by more smoke than the Clintons.
There is evidence that their charity, The Clinton Foundation, may actually have been used as a money-laundering front for arms deals during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State; Bill Clinton’s presidency was a nightmare for minorities and for the economy; and Hillary Clinton has so little integrity that it’s impossible to tell where she stands on the issues since she’s constantly flip-flopping and flat-out lying for the sake of political expedience. In fact, one of the only things that she is consistent about is war: There’s no war too costly, too wasteful or too tragic for Hillary Clinton’s tastes. And that is not some arguably nebulous scandal; it is a fact that she is proud of.
Part 2: American Privilege – Hillary Clinton Is Not a “Lesser Evil” To Those on Her War-Path
The United States is a fairly isolationist nation; most of its citizens have relatively little knowledge of what’s going on in the rest of the world much of the time. We are privileged in the sense that, because we are the biggest world power at the moment, we are not affected too much by what other countries are doing. In fact, we are so insulated that our educational system doesn’t even bother to make sure that we have a working understanding of geography before we graduate from high school. If you have European friends, you’ve likely heard them remark at some point on how shocking it is that many Americans wouldn’t even be able to identify the location of each of the states on a map of our own country. When you combine that isolationist mindset with the steady diet of propaganda and pro-government bias spoon-fed to us by our media, it’s understandable that many of us aren’t fully aware of the detrimental effects that we are having on other countries, particularly in the Middle East.
If you aren’t a fan of George W. Bush and you believe that the war in Iraq was a huge mistake, then it might interest you to know that we are involved in a great many more armed conflicts now than we were at the end of Bush’s presidency. When Bush left office, we had forces deployed in 60 countries. As of September of last year, we have forces in 135 countries, or 70% of all of the countries on the planet, and we’re actively carrying out Special Ops missions in 80 or 90 of those countries. Not only are we currently spending $14 million per day on these wars (gee, I wonder why the economy’s so bad), but we are also committing crimes against humanity with President Obama’s drone program. According to Newsweek, while Clinton was Secretary of State, “the CIA conducted 294 drone strikes that killed 2,192 people, 226 of whom were civilians.” and, “…of the 294 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Clinton’s State Department objected to less than 1% of them.” On the whole, a shocking 90% of the victims of recent drone strikes have been civilians. In June, Colonel Ann Wright talked with Consortium News about “Terror Tuesdays” in the White House:
…it is not one of the priorities of the United States that you bring a person to justice to let a neutral court try whether or not the evidence that is presented is sufficient to convict them of whatever charge it is. What we’re doing is using charges […] or allegations brought by the intelligence community of what this person possibly did and we don’t have a neutral advisor. We don’t seem to have anyone that adjudicates the evidence. We just have the president of the United States who now has taken the authority to make that decision on whatever is written on this little piece of paper, on a Tuesday, to determine whether a person lives or dies, and along with that person anyone else that might be in that circle. So it’s very imprecise […] and it in no way correlates to our own judicial look at what humanity is supposed to be doing to each other. There’s no opportunity for that person to defend themselves, to offer evidence to say “Hey, you got the wrong person. Here’s the evidence that shows that I didn’t do anything that you are alleging.” They don’t have that chance at all. They are just blown away.”
-Colonel Ann Wright
Now, if you look at Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, the very first thing that she vows to do is “Intensif[y] the coalition air campaign against ISIS fighters, leaders, and infrastructure.” In case you aren’t aware, “coalition air campaign” is a euphemism for drone warfare. So far, we’ve already killed thousands of people with drones, many of them for no reason at all, and Clinton doesn’t just want to continue this practice; she wants to “intensify” it.
How about that picture that’s all over social media right now of the 5-year-old Syrian boy, looking straight into the camera, his stunned face caked in dirt and blood? Or the pictures that were circulating perhaps a year or so ago of the many dead Syrian children in their pajamas who’d washed ashore after desperately attempting to flee to safety in the night? I won’t post links to those, but I bring them up because they have so widely been used in propaganda campaigns for their potency. And there’s good reason for it; many people, myself included, are moved to horrified tears at sights like those, but most people in this country aren’t even aware of why things like that are happening in Syria in the first place. I’ll give you a hint: these people are suffering and dying in large part because of Hillary Clinton.
As if overthrowing Gaddafi (he was murdered viciously: sodomized with a bayonet, and Clinton laughed about his death) and destabilizing Libya wasn’t enough, Clinton went on to begin a war with Syria, in an attempt to overthrow Assad. Now, Assad is not a great guy, but despite what Clinton and Obama would have you believe, we are not intervening in order to protect an oppressed people from their government. The war in Syria is actually a proxy war: it’s mostly about gaining influence over Iran. Remember when I asked that if you only read one article I’ve linked to, to make it that one up there about Trump’s appeal to the people of Middle America? I’ve changed my mind; this one is far more important. In it, Jeffrey Sachs details how Clinton is not only involved in the Syrian War; she is personally culpable for it. He concludes:
Clinton herself has never shown the least reservation or scruples in deploying this instrument of US foreign policy. Her record of avid support for US-led regime change includes (but is not limited to) the US bombing of Belgrade in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the Honduran coup in 2009, the killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and the CIA-coordinated insurrection against Assad from 2011 until today. […][Clinton] has exulted in showing her toughness by supporting every one of its misguided operations. The failures, of course, are relentlessly hidden from view. Clinton is a danger to global peace. She has much to answer for regarding the disaster in Syria.
Because ousting Assad has proved trickier than she originally thought it would be, Clinton is now pushing to institute a no-fly zone over Syria (which even Obama thinks is crazy), because that way, she can stop Russia from protecting Assad from us. And the “rebel freedom fighters” that we’re funding and arming to help us in the cause, by the way, are actually radical jihadists. Some of them are members of the al-Nusra Front, which is a faction of al-Qaeda. In short, the United States is, without question, the bad guy in these conflicts, and Hillary Clinton has spearheaded every one of them. And in her power-hungry, money-grubbing madness, she is provoking Russia by aggressively attacking one of their allies. Understand this: Russia has nuclear weapons and the capability to launch them at us. So, aside from the damage she’s doing over there, she may be angling to get us wiped clean off the map.
Still believe she’s the lesser evil?
You can argue that the civilian casualties caused by the drone strikes are collateral damage if you want to, but you can’t then also continue to claim that you care more about human suffering than those who refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton do. You can argue that Trump may do the same thing, but I’m not advocating voting for Trump. I’m not even claiming that Trump is less evil than Clinton; what I’m saying is that we have been presented with a false choice. It’s impossible to determine which of them is more evil.
Yet people are simultaneously declaring Clinton “the lesser evil” and posting memes on Facebook about how great she is. Well, it’s one or the other: either you think she’s great, or you think that she’s evil, and you’re being forced to choose her. If it’s the latter, then why are you celebrating her by proclaiming things like, “Well, I think it’s exciting that we’re going to elect the first female president! How wonderful for our daughters!” What do you think mothers in Libya and Syria are going to be teaching their daughters about Hillary Clinton? You can vote for her if you really think she’s your best option, but let me remind you of what we agreed on earlier, regarding Trump supporters:
Wrong is wrong, even if you’re desperate, and at the end of the day, if there is any harm done to the minorities in this country, it won’t matter whether a voter’s stated intention was to harm them or it was just a side effect.
Human and legal rights are important, and we should continue to fight for them in this country, for ourselves and our neighbors. But turning a blind eye to the genocide that Hillary Clinton is perpetuating in the Middle East is at least as wrong as voting for Donald Trump in spite of the fact that he’s pandering to racists and bigots. The reason that groups like ISIS thrive (besides the fact that the U.S. has accidentally been arming them) is because the civilians whose families are being ripped to shreds by our drones can see that as a people, we either hate them and want them dead, or we don’t care enough about what our government is doing to make the killing stop. To these people, there is no difference. Yes, Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from our country–but Hillary Clinton is going to their countries and blowing them up.
I can go on to draw parallels between Clinton and Trump on social issues, further debunking her “lesser evil” status. And I’m not even talking about her infamous “super-predator” remark; there are more contemporary examples. For example, she’s currently seeking the endorsement of someone who I consider to be far worse than David Duke: her close friend and mentor, Henry Kissinger, who as Secretary of State during the Nixon administration, was directly responsible for the genocide of 3 million people in Cambodia. Yes, Trump is a bigot–but Clinton vacations with and seeks advice from someone who caused the deaths of more people than could be killed by a dozen nuclear bombs.
If Trump’s obvious exploitation of racist and xenophobic sentiment to win an election somehow offends you more than her affinity for Henry Kissinger, then perhaps you should consider why Hillary’s campaign would release photos of Obama wearing a turban during the 2008 Democratic primary.
If you don’t like Trump suggesting that the “second amendment people” might “do something” about Hillary, maybe you don’t know that during that same 2008 primary, Hillary unambiguously stated that she wouldn’t concede to Obama until the convention because, in her words, “We all remember, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June, in California.” What would have happened if Bernie Sanders, who faced immense pressure to drop out of the race every step of the way, had even hinted that he had to stay in the race in case Clinton was assassinated before the convention?
Hillary Clinton is neither a “safe” nor a reasonable choice, even against Donald Trump. It’s kind of an interesting phenomenon; there are so many seemingly outlandish scandals surrounding her, in spite of the media’s attempts to squash them, that it actually makes it easier for her to claim all of the attacks on her character are ridiculous. But even if you don’t take into account the unprovable rumors and the clear misconduct that her supporters continue to dismiss as unimportant, there are still far too many things that we know to be true about her that are inexcusable and are unquestionably grounds for refusing to support her.
Part 3: Generational Privilege – Hillary Clinton Is Not a “Lesser Evil” for the Climate Refugees of the Future: Our Children
The social issues that this election has been run on are important, but ultimately, the candidates use them to obscure the big picture and bury the issues that matter the most: if you know where each candidate really stands on the TPP, foreign wars, the economy, healthcare, and climate change, it would be very easy to decide who to vote for; the only candidate on the right side of all of these issues, as well as the social issues, is Dr. Jill Stein. She is anti-TPP; she wants to institute a Peace Offensive against terrorism that consists of “starving” terrorists of funding and weapons from the US, and diplomacy with the countries that we are currently occupying; she wants to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage; she wants to slash our out-of-control military spending and re-appropriate funds to other government programs, which will go further to fix the economy; she wants to establish a single-payer healthcare system; and she is the only candidate who is advocating an aggressive plan to halt climate change. If you think it best to vote for “the lesser evil,” then why not vote for the least evil–also known as “the greater good?”
Perhaps most importantly, future generations around the world are facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of climate change. We are failing our children and grandchildren every time we elect politicians who don’t prioritize ending our reliance on fossil fuels and natural gas.
Many of us will either be dead or pretty old in 35 to 50 years when the major effects of the damage that we’re currently doing to the environment are brought to bear. Our children and grandchildren are the ones who will have to cope with our failure to act when the Earth warms more than 2 degrees centigrade and the waters rise, eliminating coastal cities, driving up to half the species on the planet to extinction, and wiping out agriculture. This will result in overcrowding as millions of people flee inland, and food shortages as we contend for resources. We may have already blown our chance to prevent the 2 degree rise in temperature, but we still have a responsibility to try to stop it from getting even worse. This article in Business Insider provides helpful charts and explains the situation:
At the rate we’re going, we’re on track to shatter our goal by a hefty 2 [degrees Celsius] by the end of the century (reaching a total of 4 degrees Celsius increase). In order to avoid such an outcome, we’d have to cut 6.2 percent of our emissions every year for the rest of the century — a monumental task.
The charts don’t lie: Climate change, if left unchecked, will have devastating and irreversible impacts on the planet.
Immediate action is needed to cut emissions and slow global warming, or the Earth — and all of its inhabitants — will suffer the consequences.
Here’s an analogy: You’re driving toward a cliff and you need to exert a certain amount of force on the brakes in order to stop the car in time. No amount of force short of that specific amount will prevent you from going over the cliff. It might take you a little longer to get there, but in the end, there are no points awarded for effort.
Many people who support Hillary Clinton rationalize that even though she is only offering incremental change on social and environmental issues, incremental change is better than no change. But environmental issues differ from social issues in an important way; while incremental change can be an acceptable way to change the social landscape, climate scientists agree that our only hope of lessening the already disastrous consequences that we can expect within this century is immediate, drastic change.
Because the United States is the most powerful country in the world, it is incumbent upon us to lead the way in green energy development and to eschew fossil fuels. Oil and coal interests contribute a lot of money to the Republican party, so you’ll always hear Republican candidates denying some or all of the climate change science: that’s why the Democrats, who stand behind climate change science, bear an even greater responsibility to get it right. Instead, they currently have an “all-of-the-above” policy on energy, and not only are they refusing to ban fracking, but they are working on expanding the reach of the natural gas industry across the US.
Reducing emissions will help, but we have to do more than that. The phrase “Clean Energy” is misleading; it is not the same thing as Renewable Energy, and it’s not good enough to stop us from going over the cliff. Hillary’s plan is to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025 relative to 2005 levels”. 2005 was 11 years ago. Her plan to cut 30% of the level of emissions that we had 11 years ago by 2025 is not nearly enough to keep us from going over the cliff.
Jill Stein’s plan will transition us to 100% Renewable Energy by 2030, while also transitioning oil/coal/natural gas workers to jobs in this new field. Don’t you think a coal miner would rather spend their workdays outside, in sunshine and fresh air, affixing solar panels to roofs than mining for coal? Don’t you think they would rather a world for their children where all of Manhattan and 25% of Florida aren’t underwater?
All of this doesn’t even take into account the fact that Hillary’s platform is not binding, so she doesn’t even have to do any of the things she’s promised if she doesn’t want to. And we have good reason to believe that she won’t do many of them: After having her arm twisted by Bernie Sanders and his followers to mount “the most progressive platform in American history,” she turned around and appointed pro-TPP, pro-fracking Ken Salazar to head up her Transition Team. We should consider this a dog whistle–or really, it’s more like a trumpet, blasting the message far and wide–that Clinton’s corporate donors have nothing to fear: in spite of her short-lived, lackluster pandering to the progressive population, she has no intention of abdicating her Neo-Conservative, corporately funded throne.
Dr. Stein is simply the best candidate, and that should be enough to win your vote, even though she is a third party candidate. She is a true feminist, humanist, sharp-as-tacks “good guy.” Check out some of her interviews. Look at her proposals. She is incredibly inspiring and she never gets ruffled by the hostility and personal attacks that she’s endured as a result of her refusal to back down and fade away. Jill Stein is the real role model for our daughters and sons. Her vision is worth fighting for, even beyond this election. This woman is a hero, in the real sense of the word, and she has my free, unfettered support in her fight against corporate greed, oligarchic rule and the complacency of a jaded public, who have been broken and manipulated into fighting against their own best interest.
If you think that Jill Stein is the best candidate, then instead of trying to talk me out of voting for her, what you should be doing is trying to explain to others why they should vote for her. If your rejoinder to all of this has been the go-to “But Jill Stein can’t win,” consider this: Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka will be on the ballot in 47 states by November. That means that she could absolutely win if people would just refuse to panic-vote for Hillary–especially because only 9% of the population voted for either Clinton or Trump in the primaries.
To Clinton supporters who like to throw barbs and question the intelligence of those who won’t fall in line, I say this: It is infinitely more foolish to allow 9% of the population to take away your power and extort you into voting for a monster, than to believe that Jill Stein can win the presidency if everyone who wants to vote for her does so.