Simon Hardy Butler

Why I Won’t Be Voting This Election

I live in a diverse Manhattan neighborhood. Across the street from me is a Jewish school; a number of Orthodox families live in my building. Walk a block to Broadway, and you’ll find stores selling Dominican products, a Salvadoran restaurant, gastropubs, barber shops. Right nearby is a glatt kosher senior center; not far off is a shul where many people may be voting come Election Day this Tuesday.

I won’t be one of them. And the reason is not what you may think.

I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. I mentally count the times I engage in various activities, wash my hands frequently, repeat behaviors often, worry about unnecessary things. I’m afraid the pressure of voting will be overwhelming for me, even though I’ve done it before in previous presidential elections here in the United States of America. I’m concerned I won’t be able to make the right choice, will freeze at the moment of truth, will stay in the booth too long while mulling my decision and be yelled out by the person behind me. In short, I am too scared to take the initiative. And my condition has become worse … so much so that I’m unable to complete simple tasks without performing my OCD rituals. Pulling a lever that may help decide the fate of the country would be a daunting prospect indeed.

Yet i wish I had the capacity to do it. Because if I did, I would be voting for Hillary Clinton … against the anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry encapsulated by Donald Trump.

Yes, I know there may be prejudice on both sides. And I realize that Trump’s son-in-law is Jewish and his wife, The Donald’s daughter Ivanka, converted to Judaism. Still, I’m dismayed at the Republican candidate’s and his family’s history of intolerance, whether it concerns his father’s company being sued for alleged discrimination or Trump junior’s recent eyebrow-raising remark to a group of Jewish businessmen that he’s “a negotiator like you folks.” One cannot dismiss such efforts with a wave of the hand or shrug them off by suggesting that somehow they’re actually issue-free. For adhering to bias and the offensive stereotypes perpetuated by it is not cool in any forum — least of all the highest governmental office in the USA. Not in this era, anyway, though the presence of racism in any age must be considered abhorrent and contrary to human nature, as well as a blot on our evolutionary path as a species.

Sadly, despite the obviousness of that statement, we’re seeing a player on this political stage who embodies the problems inherent in xenophobia while seeming indifferent to the varied sensitivities of populations whose causes he purports to advocate … such as the residents of my neighborhood. But almost as sad is the fact that my mind will not allow me to do my civic duty and vote against this individual, even though I live in a state, New York, where the race will be hotly contested and my involvement in the election process might be important in helping to determine the winner. I don’t have the energy to fight my own disease. I just hope that doesn’t have any consequences we, the people, might regret.

Perhaps I’m ascribing too much value to my potential. I am, after all, just one person in a massive, decisive nation, and there’s not a lot I can do to swing the election the way wind brushes past a weathervane. My desire, however, is that by abstaining I will encourage others to stand up for justice in my stead, to speak their minds by making a selection, to talk some sense into my land through the mere closing of a curtain. I may not be able to do this, but my compatriots will. Their voices are strong. I must have faith in them and their choice.

If only I had faith in myself. Maybe that’s for another time.

At that point, I trust, words — and, of course, deeds — won’t fail me then.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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