Skip to main content.

Wednesday

Open letter to Gabrielle Giffords, Jon Kyl, and Janet Napolitano...

You've won your respective elections for jurisdictions in which I happen to reside.

I did not vote for you. I did not vote for anyone. I do not give my consent to be governed in such a manner as you propose, and so you will rule in the explicit absence of consent of at least one of the governed.

I accept that you will be my new and ongoing rulers - not morally, but in fact. I can do nothing to change it, your course is as inexorable and unstoppable as that of a killer hurricane. I can only seek to insulate myself from your influence to the greatest extent possible.

I do not delegate any authority to you. You will rule over me, not govern. Perhaps you are the kind of people to whom that thought creates some discomfort. I hope so. If it is, maybe you should print this out and tape it to your bathroom mirror, so that you may start each day with this knowledge, and that it may temper your actions.

In any case, you will rule without legitimate authority over me. In this too, I have little choice but to accept it as fact. I can only try to adjust my life in an attempt to mitigate the damage you will do to it.

You do not represent me. Your values are overtly hostile to mine, and you will work almost entirely in direct opposition to all that I value. The few cases in which that is not true will be mere coincidence. But I will continue to pursue my values in the hopes that I can accumulate them more rapidly than you can destroy them - even as you turn a portion of what I create against me.

I'm confident that I will be able to do so, and today I am free - more free than I have been in as long as I can remember. My peace of mind, my hopes for the future, and my vision of the values I wish to create are no longer influenced by the results of your election processes. I have today, in my abstinence from any voluntary involvement with you, in my refusal to grant you any sanction whatsoever, acheived a moral clarity that is more valuable than any effect that could have been acheived by a misplaced and futile attempt to use the ballot as a means of self-defense.

I've realized today, not just abstractly as I have for some time now, but as a concrete fact directly perceivable, that I don't need you; yet you need me. You may claim to represent me, you may claim to rule with my consent and through a delegation of powers, but your claims cannot make it true. These are things that cannot be taken, they can only be offered voluntarily. Neither wishing, pleading, cajoling, nor threatening can change this simple fact. And though you think you can pretend otherwise, the truth is that they are vital to your purpose.

I have no illusions that my withholding of consent, the retention of my sovereign authority, my refusal to grant sanction, will be noticed by you. But it will diminish you. That diminishment may be imperceptible, beneath the level of the background noise that will dominate your awareness during your terms, but it will be real. The cumulative effect of all those that have already done so, those you write off as "apathetic" because their choices were not as clearly deliberate as mine, is already readily apparent.

But more importantly - the only important consequence, in fact - is that it will elevate me. It will elevate me back towards the stature that only a free human being is capable of.

Perhaps some day many others will join me - perhaps, if I allow myself to indulge a moment of shameless fantasy, even you yourself. Yet I am prepared to be alone in it in the likely event that such does not come to pass. You may destroy me - unlikely, but not impossible - but until that time my life will be mine. You can no longer touch it.

UPDATE: I've been involved in a few discussions over this, here , and here. A commenter named Jahn at that first link put the whole thing into one sentence:
I refuse to participate in my own destruction.
'Nuff said.

Comments

You said it better than I could have.

Posted by Xwilde at Wednesday, November 08, 2006 08:58 AM

"Yet I am prepared to be alone..."

You're not alone.

Posted by Matt at Wednesday, November 08, 2006 06:32 PM

"Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice"...Harry S. Truman

Gina

Posted by Gina Smith at Wednesday, November 08, 2006 07:06 PM

Xwilde, Matt, thanks. Gina, that's all I want to do, exactly what I want to do. And when democracy "becomes destructive of these ends", governing one's self is all that remains. Nice quote, thanks.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, November 08, 2006 08:02 PM

Beautifully written, Kyle.

And that's a magnificent quote, Gina. Old Harry said something wonderful there. I guess he couldn't have lived as long as he did if he were always wrong.

Hope you don't mind if I quote a few paragraphs.

Posted by Al the Old Whig at Wednesday, November 08, 2006 09:57 PM

Thanks, Al. Spread it far and wide if you like.

Posted by kylben at Thursday, November 09, 2006 05:54 AM

While I admire your defiance in the face of a terrible and powerful machine that can and will devour your liberties, I cannot condone the one action that might have prevented your adversaries from claiming office. To refrain from voting could be an act of defiance; however, more likely itís an act of submission associated with frustration akin to putting your head in the sand.

Nicely written all the same.

Heard of you via Old Whig's Brain Dump

Posted by T F Stern at Thursday, November 09, 2006 07:24 AM

TF,

It has nothing to do with defiance. Defiance would be something that is directed toward them. The point of this is that these people are no longer my adversaries, or anything else to me. As I commented at Al's place, it has nothing to do with them. Literally, I mean that I will have *nothing* to do with them.

Seeing someone as your adversary means your behavior is still determined by your orientation to them. That is not freedom, even if you succeed in overcoming them.

It's not "head in the sand", it's very nearly the opposite. Try this: it's more like I've been in a deep hole, and I've been trying to convince them to come out of it with me - staring up at that distant circle of light and seeing how easy it is to get to it, and all the possibilities that exist up there - and trying to figure out a way to get us all out of the hole.

But now, I realize that they like the hole, they're comfortable and secure in it. And that without them, all it takes for me is to step up and out of it. It's that easy, and it's always been that easy.

It's not frustration, its relief.

Posted by kylben at Thursday, November 09, 2006 08:08 AM

I've been trying to get across this idea to others but have lacked the words sufficient to guarantee their understanding. I'll point them here and let you explain it, you've done so far more eloquently than I ever could.

Posted by mandrill at Thursday, November 09, 2006 02:47 PM

I think I would prefer to be your friend. :) I came here after I read excerpts from Al's blog.

Posted by Teflonman at Thursday, November 09, 2006 08:13 PM

Mandrill,

Thanks, send 'em all over, there's plenty of room. But I can assure you, these words are not sufficient to guarantee their understanding. Lot's of people are familiar with the usual arguments for not voting, but it's a big jump to get past the idea that not voting is some kind of political strategy.

Most seem to come at it from the same angle as TF did above. I don't mean any criticism of them or TF, it's just that it requires a certain philosophical mindset that most people just aren't that familiar with.

I've tried to clarify it here and in additional comments at Al's blog (see Old Whig in my blogroll if you're not familiar with him), but with limited success.

Teflonman, OK, but "prefer" it to what?

Posted by kylben at Thursday, November 09, 2006 08:40 PM

Looking at the way you wield your words like flaming daggers, I think I'd be safer staying in your good books. Not to patronise you, but I do agree with what you have written.

We are, after all, still victims of circumstances. All we can do, like you've written, is to "try to adjust my life in an attempt to mitigate the damage you will do to it".

Brilliant!

Posted by Teflonman at Friday, November 10, 2006 07:02 AM

Count me among those who have have been struggling in numerous forums to express what you have written so eloquently and forcefully.

Posted by Stephen Macklin at Sunday, November 12, 2006 01:06 PM

It was helpful to come back here and remember why I can't get worked up over politics these days.

Posted by Al the Old Whig at Sunday, March 04, 2007 05:01 PM

Add Comment

This item is closed, it's not possible to add new comments to it or to vote on it