OPINION – Fanaticism has always been part of human nature. Unfortunately, recognizing it for what it is can be challenging for those who are caught up in it.
If the participants of an early 19th century religious tent revival could watch the frenzied antics of our current election year, they’d shake their heads in a mixture of pity and disbelief.
Considering how many people today view elections as the high sacrament of our civic religion, it’s understandable that many Americans are in the thrall of a pseudo-religious fervor.
If you were to stop 10 random people on the street and ask them what is motivating their participation in our quadrennial political reassurance ritual, the answers would be revealing.
For all the fiery talk thundering from the pulpits of mass and social media, very little is being offered in way of authentic, life-changing hope and direction. Most of the sermons being preached are more about damning one’s political opponents to hell than securing some form of proper governance.
For months now, word games have been raging back and forth online about how “a vote for anyone else is actually a vote for my candidate’s opponent.” This slavish devotion to the artificially limited choices of a deeply self-serving two-party system is the best evidence yet of Stockholm Syndrome on an unprecedented societal level.
It’s no exaggeration to note that fear has become the driving force behind how many people will choose to cast their votes this year.
Childish manipulation attempts aside, what does it say about our society when the most prominent arguments for voting are based in fear or guilt? Why should the legitimacy of one’s vote be contingent upon following the herd?
It’s clear many people have been successfully persuaded to view voting as a strategic game of sorts. This is why otherwise good people will abandon their long-term principles to settle for some perceived short-term political gain out of fear that their team might not win.
It’s telling that the promised short-term gain typically fails to materialize, yet four years down the road they find themselves playing the same rigged game with the deluded exuberance of a chronic gambler.
Those who view voting merely as a high-stakes game of strategy tend to be less respectful of the prerogative of other voters in how they exercise their conscience. They are more likely to regard a sincere difference of conscience as alignment with their opponent’s point of view and goals when it’s nothing of the sort.
Their world is seen primarily through a lens of political power and which way the guns will be pointing after the election. This is why we can always be more certain of who or what they are against than what they actually stand for.
On the other hand, voters who consider voting to be a sacred duty must choose more wisely how they will cast their vote. Their vote becomes an affirmation of who or what they are willing to morally support.
They understand that winning at the cost of compromising one’s principles is a Pyrrhic victory, at best.
This means they’d rather vote for a person or policy they can support and lose than vote for what they can’t support and win.
They do not allow their fears to dictate their commitment to principles they know to be sound. Their love of liberty, with its attendant principles and practices, outweighs their hatred of their enemies.
The upside of this approach is that once a person has settled on his or her foundational principles, it becomes much easier to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of which candidates and issues are worth supporting.
Sacred duty voters tend to have deeper respect for the voting choices of others; even those with whom they disagree. They don’t engage in playground sophistry and fear-mongering to try to manipulate others into voting their way.
If asked, they will explain exactly who or what they stand for and allow others to follow their own consciences in making the decision as to how their votes should be cast. Knowing exactly who they are and what they stand for lends a type of steadiness to their worldview that doesn’t require constant reassurance from the crowd.
Obviously, the sacred duty voter is a clear minority in today’s electorate.
They are often hated for their unwillingness to be swayed by the fearful pleadings of the crowd. In other times and places, they have faced being ostracized, spat upon, beaten and jailed for refusing to go along with the majority.
Doing the right thing is seldom synonymous with what’s easy.
However, time has always seemed to eventually vindicate the principles for which they stood even when it was unpopular to do so.
Courageous individuals are a necessity in every age, including ours.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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