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No One is Sweeping Dead Muslims Under the Rug

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A couple of commenters and links have basically said that in not taking drone killings of Pakistanis seriously enough (for them) in my post yesterday, that I am basically choosing which brown people matter and which don’t. Jim Henley especially does this, and in a particularly egregious way:

But you know, they are not so rich in Somalia and Pakistan, and not especially white, and a lot of them are women and girls. And Barack Obama operates a machinery that kills these people at a ferocious clip. This was wrong during the Bush years and it is wrong now. Loomis gives every indication of wanting to rule these men and women of color, modest means, and oh-so-convenient distance out of the moral calculus.

This is completely absurd. Yes, voting is about, in part, a moral calculus. But to quote djw,

The moral purpose of democracy is not to keep my hands clean and feel good about myself, no matter how much politicians and other demagogues claim otherwise. The moral purpose of democracy is the reduction of abusive power in the world. Unfortunately there’s a lot of it, and democracy’s pretty clearly an insufficient tool to address it, but that’s no reason not to use the tool, when and where you can.

Indeed. I’m not saying bombing Pakistanis doesn’t matter. I’m saying that basing a vote ONLY on that and its related issues of civil liberties a) completely ignores the very real difference between Obama and Romney on a huge host of issues that affect the poor in this country and b) shows a very real sense of privilege by those making that argument because they are personally far removed from the reality of being a person of color or poor in this country. That’s great that people are highlighting this issue. But many of those who do so also almost always ignore or trivialize internal issues that the poor and people of color face.

It’s not that we should ignore the killing of Yemenis by drones. The problem is that AMERICANS LIKE KILLING BROWN PEOPLE OVERSEAS IF THERE’S NO COST TO THEM. Sorry for the caps but it’s important to get that point across. The problem of drones and civil liberties and human rights is that Americans don’t care about these issues. It’s not about Obama or Romney, not about the Democratic or Republican parties. It’s that there is a bipartisan consensus in this country, supported by a majority of voters in both parties, that using drones to bomb Afghani wedding parties is completely OK.

That’s completely messed up. But there’s nothing I can do about that with my vote. There are other issues where I wish greater differences separated the parties. Agricultural policy, defense spending, etc. But on these issues, I have to accept that I sit in a deep minority here. I could file a protest vote but that’s pure narcissism unless one is truly committed to building party structures that would transform American politics.

However, there are very real differences between the two parties and their candidates on a whole host of issues where my vote might matter. Abortion rights. Gay rights. Environmental protection. Labor rights. Access to voting. Etc. It is on these issues that we have to make our choices. The election is still close and every vote matters, both up and down ticket. Presumably, if you think that you need to vote for Gary Johnson in order to protest drone killing, you want others to do so as well. And doing so over an Obama vote both gives a half vote to Romney and suggests that you are fine with voting for a candidate who would eviscerate the social system of this country if, god forbid, he was actually elected. That is pretty reprehensible.

If either major party offered a platform opposed to killing Pakistanis through the air, that would be great. Instead, we face a choice between someone who has continued the terrible policies of his predecessor and someone who is openly campaigning to kill even more brown people. So even on this issue, there is a slight difference.

Given the reality of American life, I can either make myself feel morally clean, vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson and effectively give 0.5 votes to Mitt Romney, a man who would destroy the rights of poor people in this country while make the life of poor people around the world even worse. Or I can swallow my pride, vote for Obama, and work to change the Democratic Party and political life in this country so we can get to a point where we don’t have a bipartisan consensus that killing random Muslims is actually a good thing.

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