Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Lesser of Evils

I have a Twitter friend whom I once viewed as a wise person. Lately, many of our mutual friends have begun to wonder what's happened to him, as he seems to have lost all perspective and logical capabilities, and has begun sounding more like a schizophrenic than someone espousing wisdom.

I was discussing the fact that, if I could vote, given the inevitability that either Obama or Romney will end up in office (barring something extremely unexpected taking place), I would choose Obama. When asked why, I cited the fact that, even though I do not agree with much of Obama's economic policy, I view human rights issues as a priority over the economy. After all, without human rights, no economic policy will be of much help to any of us.

That's when "Mr. T.", as I'll call him, broke in with a mostly incoherent diatribe on why Obama isn't worthy of being credited with having human rights as a priority, because he's a "mass murderer just like all the others" (including Romney).

Apparently, he's calling Obama a mass murderer because of the ongoing wars and additional potential warfare we are facing. While I do not agree with the general consensus that it is our country's responsibility to police the world, I think most reasonable people agree that it's a stretch to call it "mass murder". Death and destruction is an inevitability in any war, but murder is something one intentionally carries out as a goal, not something that comes with the territory of waging a war against a country based on a perceived threat (however misperceived) or any other basis.

Mr. T. proceeded to say that both Obama and Romney are mass murderers, and that I was "crazy" for saying that it made sense to vote for EITHER of them, and that supporting either of them was me condoning mass murder.

In an attempt to bring reason into the conversation, I laid it out like this:

If both candidates are equally guilty of mass murder, and it is inevitable that one of them will end up in office, it makes sense to choose the candidate that will bring less restriction of freedom. I can't control either candidate's decision on warfare or "mass murder", but if I am forced to choose only between two "mass murderers", I choose the one who is for marriage equality and doesn't think he owns my vagina.

He made several pathetic attempts to ridicule me for that statement, calling me selfish and claiming that I think my vagina is more important than the innocent lives of children whom he is accusing Obama of (apparently intentionally) killing. His logical fallacy is quite glaring to me, but to him, it's the most perfect logic ever known to humanity.

I think it's important to mention that there is no evidence whatsoever that Obama (or even Romney, for that matter) intends to murder innocent children. Do innocent children die in a war? Unfortunately, yes. To stretch and distort that into intentionally murdering them is not only inaccurate, it shows a lack of clarity and a very distorted thinking process.

But, just for the sake of argument, let's say that he's right and that both Romney and Obama are mass murderers. I don't agree, but let's just pretend for a moment that it's true.

He repeatedly claimed that voting for someone who is a "mass murderer" simply because they have other policies that I agree with somehow makes me a party to said "mass murder". That would be true if there were only ONE candidate guilty of mass murder and I chose the mass murderer based on my priority of wanting them to keep the hell out of my genitalia. However, if both parties are equally guilty of being mass murderers, and one of those two is guaranteed to end up in office, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it makes sense to go for the lesser of two evils.

Penn Jillette, someone who is good at coming up with great sound bytes that promote critical thinking, has been quoted many times as saying "If you vote for the lesser of two evils, you end up with more evil."

The glaring logical fallacy there is that voting for LESS evil vs. MORE evil somehow creates more evil. It doesn't. Yes, you'll continue to have evil, but you'll have less evil than you would otherwise have had if you voted for the greater quantity of evil over the lesser quantity of evil. The quote makes the assumption that there is at least one viable alternative to the two evils, and at this point in the campaign, there just isn't. Fan or not, that quote is just nonsense.

Ironically, Mr. T. is not a fan of Penn's, perhaps even an enemy, but seems to be saying the exact same thing in accusing me of being "crazy" for saying it makes sense to vote for the lesser of two evils. Somehow in his eyes, me voting for a candidate whom he views to be a mass murderer is the same thing as promoting mass murder. It's not... not unless there is a candidate who stands a chance to make it into the White House who is NOT a mass murderer and I pass them up in favor of my own civil liberties over the lives of innocent children.

In a fantasy world, things might be that simple. In the real world, we are almost always faced with voting for a candidate based on prioritized issues, since there will rarely ever be a candidate with whom we are in complete agreement on everything.

When bills get passed in Congress, there are always undesirable things embedded in them that we'd rather not pass. We aren't voting to pass those undesirable things simply because we view other things as important enough to pass despite the accompanying undesirables embedded within the bill.

Likewise, when I condone voting for a candidate who stands for marriage equality and women's rights over one who is the polar opposite, that in no way requires me to condone other political views or behaviors of those candidates.

If we follow the suggestion that we shouldn't vote at all unless there is a candidate we agree with 100% on everything, then we don't ever vote, and the few control who ends up in office. We still end up with one of two main candidates in office, but we have no say in whether the lesser or greater evils of the two reigns. That's asinine.

According to Mr. T., this view means I am insane. If that's the case, then I'm fine with being insane. Insanity is better than indulging in the foolishness of logical fallacy and hyperbole at the expense of what little influence we taxpayers have. I'll take my crazy ass insane opinion that we should vote for the lesser of two evils over the idea that we should passively allow the worse of two evils to take office just to play make believe that we are better people for "not voting for someone who is guilty of (fill in the blank here)" any day.

All things being equal, if Hitler # 1 wants to kill off entire segments of the population AND control your genitalia, and Hitler # 2 wants to kill off entire segments of the population but does NOT want control of your genitalia, logic dictates that you're a fool for not at least trying to prevent having BOTH evils inflicted on the populace. That doesn't make mass murder ok, and it doesn't mean you are condoning it. It simply means you are trying to avoid that evil which you may have SOME control over.

Yeah, I know. That's just fucking insane. We should all just sit passively by and hope that not voting for either inevitable candidate somehow works out for the best, because it's so much better to pretend we have the moral high ground for never voting for anyone with whom we are not 100% in agreement.

Somebody get me a straight jacket.