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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Pacifism Against a Sinful Peace

We may have a horrific choice ahead, a choice between Hillary Clinton and her alter-ego, Donald Trump. I have already publicly indicated that I have no intention of voting for either one. I am not a politician. I am not required to sell out my principles in order to support the most popular of two equally evil candidates.

There are those who agree with this analysis, but hold up the Amish as an example to follow. They argue that we should at least vote the down ticket, the local elections, even if we cannot find a way to stomach the national candidates. That is one solution. But can we go even further?

Many consider it some kind of civic sin to not participate in the political process. Is it?
If war is just the continuation of politics by other means and
It is not a sin to refuse to participate in a sinful war (war-time pacifism) then
It is not a sin to refuse to participate in a sinful peace (political pacifism).
Now, it is possible for war to be just, or moral. If a war is just, then, clearly, we might sin by refusing to participate in that just war.

But, everyone also recognizes that we can justifiably refuse to participate in a war that we consider sinful. Now, as CS Lewis pointed out, "If war is ever moral, then sometimes peace can be sinful." The thought is initially startling, but clearly accurate. This is, after all, the reason a just war is waged - the peace is sinful, and can no longer justly be borne. If we can refuse to participate in a sinful war, then we must also be able to refuse to participate in a sinful peace.

When can we refuse to participate in a sinful peace? Consider the four criteria of the just war, namely.
  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
In a sinful peace, we may have no "serious prospect of success(fully)" removing the sin while retaining the peace, so we cannot justly wage war. What can we do in this sinful peace? That is, what can be done, short of war, when the political process itself has been so corrupted that we end with a choice like Hillary vs. Bernie vs. Donald? The first two are clearly fungible. If you have reason to doubt Trump's recent conversion to a "conservative" outlook, then all three individuals are entirely fungible. Voting for any particular one creates essentially the same consequences as voting for either of the others. If this country actually reaches that point, then voting, participation in the process, is merely validation of the process. My vote merely rubber-stamps horror.

Now, opponents of non-voting might point out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country (emphasis added)
Why yes, yes it does. But the Catechism also says:
2311 Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way. (emphasis added again)
If war-time provisions can be made for those who cannot, in good conscience, fight an unjust war, then - by the same principle - provisions can also be made for someone who cannot abide the electoral farce that exists in an unjust peace. Just as someone can refuse to contribute to the 98% electoral victory of Josef Stalin, so that same someone can refuse to contribute to the electoral victory of either candidate in a Hillary vs. Trump contest.

And there is good reason to do this. As has been pointed out elsewhere, you can't vote with a question mark or an asterisk. A begrudged vote for Hillary/Bernie/Donald is identical to an enthusiastic vote for the hydra-headed beast. Both the enthusiastic vote and the clothes-pin-on-the-nose vote  count the same, a vote for any one of them has the horrific effect of contributing to that one actually getting the office. Even if the one I vote for does not gain office, even if one of the others gets the office instead, s/he can still point to my vote against them as at least a blessing of the process. No matter what happens, my vote validates their occupancy of the office.

Catholic Faith does not require me to validate a politician's office. For instance, in a monarchy, I would validate the office by granting public assent to the actions of the king. Thomas More became a political pacifist, he dropped out of the political process, he refused to give his "vote" of assent to the actions of the king. Instead, he "voted" by resigning the royal office that had been given to him and retiring to private life. His refusal to "vote", his refusal to give assent to the political process, led to his death as the king's good subject, but God's first. The king recognized More's refusal to participate in the monarchy's political processes, his political pacifism, as an act of war against the government. Thomas More was declared a saint for refusing to participate in an unjust political process.

In a democracy, I validate the office holder by voting. When I consciously refuse to vote, I imitate St. Thomas More's action. Not voting is not "taking no action." I can choose not to have sex with my spouse on fertile days.I can choose not to bear arms in war. I can choose not to vote in order to avoid validating ANYONE in the process.

And so, I can become Thomas More, retiring to the countryside, refusing to participate in the corrupt political process which gave us the fake "choice" between Hillary and Donald.

Many feel the process can be saved, so they will write in a candidate. That is a valid opinion to hold, and a valid course to follow. We could tear off the offensive part of the ballot. We could leave parts blank. Or we can refuse to vote at all, we could retire from the irredeemably corrupt political process, as Thomas More did. We are allowed to repudiate the entire process. We can refuse to participate in both a sinful war and a sinful peace.

And, if our political pacifism fails, then we have a final option.
Remember the Battle of Athens.

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