Story #1, The Devil:
Back when I was having my first car-buying experience, I remember the moment when I realized it was all a big game. I had diligently done my homework, looking for the kind of car I wanted online within a price range that I could afford with a good maintenance history and crash report history and at a mileage that was serviceable.
My partner and I drove out to the dealer and asked for the car that I was interested in, only to hear, “Oh, I’m sorry. We don’t have that item on the lot anymore. Can I interest you in something similar?”
Naively, I was disappointed that the car had sold but agreed to take a look at the one the sales person wanted to show to me. However, when I test drove the car, I noticed that the engine had a funny feel. Doing a visual check-over, I noticed that the carpet and door jams had water ring stains. A little more digging, and I discovered it had been refurbished after a flood.
I declined to take the other car and walked away.
Later, when I talked to others about how frustrated I was that we didn’t get to the car dealership in time to see the car, I was surprised when others told me that it was a pretty common tactic called a “bait and switch.”
Likely, the dealer never had that car or never intended to sell that car for that price in the first place and merely put it online to lure potential buyers in so that they could be pressured into buying something not quite as good.
As a nation, we’ve had a bait and switch. The Democratic Party was recently revealed to have been colluding to prevent Sanders from taking the nomination.
Hillary didn’t win fair and square. It was set up—a rigged match.
To make matters worse, when the DNC chair stepped down in disgrace, she was rewarded by Hillary Clinton.
Now we’re being told that we have one choice if we want to prevent Trump from getting the Presidency—vote for Hillary.
With my car situation, I wasn’t desperate for a new one yet. I had the ability to decline the bait and switch and be appropriately angry about the manipulation. Had my current car been totaled and I was reliant on independent transportation for a job, I might have felt more pressure to go with the deal in front of me, even if it wasn’t the best one I could find.
I don’t know if I feel like I can walk away from the Democratic bait and switch. I’m still thinking about it. I think a lot of Sanders supporters are.
What concerns me, though, is that so many people are okay with what happened.
Whereas during my car search those around me were equally disgusted with an attempt to trick me into buying a worse car for more money, fellow liberals seem to think that outrage over what happened in the primaries is an over-reaction.
I get why some Sanders supporters are refusing to vote for Hillary in light of everything. If a party is so corrupt that they’re unphased when caught in the midst of their corruption, it makes it seem ludicrous to trust them.
Story #2, The Tower:
My last year at BJU, as I’ve described here, I was beginning to dip my toes into activism, fighting a corrupt system, standing up for people’s rights, and all that fun stuff that has become such a cornerstone of who I am and what I do. On the heels of when my friends and I began to anonymously but publicly question the abuse of power on campus, the school announced their spiritual growth theme for that semester: “unity.”
They preached sermons on unity, had Bible studies on unity, talked about unity in class. It was everywhere… Of course, it doesn’t sound like a horrible theme on the surface; however, it soon became abundantly clear that what the administration considered unity was actually conformity and submission.
It was their version of “sit down and shut up”—sent out to our little anonymous, Harry Potter inspired rebellion.
In their minds, there was no room for unity and dissent to coexist, for unity and calls for accountability, for unity and individuality, or for unity and diversity.
It was a word I had positive connotations for prior to that semester, but I didn’t realize until I actually looked it up that one of its definitions is: “absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character,” (Dictionary.com).
Any pushback from students wasn’t seen as investment in the school being the best it could be or concern for integrity. Rather it was “sowing seeds of division.”
We were encouraged to unite because division within would distract from the true, common enemy without (Satan, the world, homosexuals, feminists, etc. etc. etc. etc.)
But I also learned another word for what they were talking about: groupthink. And outside of the cult, I learned that groupthink was a toxic to a group—that a truly healthy group has dissent because it is only in dissent and diversity that you can reveal blind spots and discover pitfalls. Conflict is the stuff that groups grow on. Perfect unity is a death knell to creativity and resiliency.
But that’s a cult for you.
I feel like I’m facing déjà vu as I listen to the Democrats plead for “unity” behind Clinton.
Unity that would mean progressives need to shut up about their outrage over corruption, the rigged elections, and the contributions of the two-party system that led to this moment in the first place.
I’m all for trying to change a system from the inside before deciding that system can’t be saved. That was largely my reasons for participating in those activities at BJU. While the administration perceived our efforts as undermining and destructive, our goal was to stimulate positive change and critical thinking.
However, eventually I reached the point where I realized I could waste my life trying to change a system from the inside simply because I didn’t have the courage to step out of the system. I was watching people do it.
So I left, and my world shattered in such a terrible, annihilating way. When the dust settled though, I could see that I had broken through to something far more authentic and healthy.
I distrust the Democratic plea for unity. Sanders tried to change the party from the inside. And they balked. More than that, they fought back viciously.
There’s no denying at this point that the two-party system is failing to adequately provide democracy to the people. People are hungry for something to change, but they’re also scared.
There’s a line from Halsey’s “Castle” that has been sticking with me lately: “If you wanna break these walls down, you’re gonna get bruised.”
At this point, I don’t think it’s possible to change our system without it hurting to some extent, but one of the things that attracts me to third parties is that they’re the only ones who are suggesting it’s possible to embrace this moment for change to break out of our current system—to break through to something stronger and better, maybe not found in any individual presidency that could come this time around but in the hope of true choice, in the dismantling of fear politics, and in the rejection of both fascism and corporatist oligarchy.
The question is: do we have the courage to leave behind the paradigm we know to reach for something else?
I recognize that some don’t feel this is “the time” to break out of that paradigm. They feel that Trump is too much of a threat.
For me, I don’t think there is going to ever be a “right time.” The deeper we go into the dysfunction of our current system, the more it will cost to change the system. Regardless of what the election outcome is this year, we will face a crisis of choice around the new-fascist energy that has gained so much momentum.
The question is no longer about when the right time is but whether changing hurts less than staying the same.
We’re gonna get bruised.
Story #3, Temperence:
When I decided to get married against my parent’s wishes (and thus leave the cult), my family pretty much tried every psychological mindfuck in the book to stop me.
One night, my brother and his wife invited my partner and me over to their home for a visit. My brother proceeded to spend the evening lecturing us about how we were going to kill my father if we proceeded with our plans.
At another point, my parents told me the same thing, except this time they accused me of killing my grandmother.
At the time, it seemed like a very real possibility that one or both of them would have a heart attack and die from their strong feelings about my life’s direction, and I had to work through all of the (false) sense of responsibility I felt about that.
Obviously, I chose to continue with my plans to get out of that toxic environment. But that motif arose again as an internalized message when I came out as bi and again when I came out as non-Christian.
They’re miraculously all still alive, but it took me years to realize that even if either my dad or my grandmother had died (or even committed suicide) following one of my life choices, that I wouldn’t have been responsible for their deaths.
I would later come to learn that it’s part of a pretty classic cycle of abuse and falls into similar categories as the “you made me beat you” or “you deserve what you get.”
I’ve often heard people ask, “Why didn’t you just leave?” In some ways, that’s the opposite form of blaming. The abuser might declare that the victim “caused” their abuse. Outsiders might say that they “could have prevented it.”
One of the goals of working with survivors is to help someone in an abusive situation realize where their power to leave lies. BUT to do so in a way that never blames them for the abuse. It’s a really delicate balance of uncovering empowerment while honoring vulnerability and often involves planning when it’s most feasible to leave successfully, both practically and emotionally.
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard undecided voters or third party voters accused of being responsible for Trump’s election and anything horrible that follows, and I categorically reject that idea. The only people responsible for Trump’s election are the people who choose to vote for him.
Let me say that again. The only people responsible for Trump’s election are the people who choose to vote for him.
Trying to blame those who are fighting his election with their vote for someone else is manipulative and abusive.
That being said, I also recognize that my vote is an important decision not to be made lightly. I don’t lean towards a third party vote because I don’t care about the results of the election. I care very deeply and desperately want to make a choice that I think will be the best option (taking into account the conscience of my vote as well as the effectiveness of my vote).
I’ve been accused of being privileged for simply considering not voting for Hillary. The reality is much more complicated. We are all overprivileged to some extent and underprivileged to another extent. As a bi woman, I face a certain amount of risk. As a cis, white, American, I have a certain amount of security.
Both my privilege and my vulnerability go into my decision.
In some ways Hillary seems like a very appealing option.
On the one hand, I feel certain that a Clinton presidency would affect me and certain groups fairly little in the short term (although I also believe we have been progressively moving towards stripping basic Constitutional rights away from the general populace even while we’ve made great strides in Civil Rights for marginalized groups).
However, I don’t necessarily believe that a Clinton presidency would be good for immigrants or various other marginalized groups. Trump talks a scary game, but Clinton has also supported unjust wars and the bombing of civilians. She backed a genocidal military coup and deported child refugees (read here, here, here, here, and here). The Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated support for human rights violations such as Guantanamo, the Privacy Act, and various other initiatives disguised as anti-terrorist measures.
So does protecting some areas of vulnerability justify the oppression that would result with more colonialism and imperialism in the White House? If we can guarantee that human rights violations would stay overseas, would that be reason enough to vote for Hillary to avoid Trump?
To me, that seems like using my American privilege at the expense of others.
I don’t see privilege as something that should necessarily be rejected. Sometimes, yes. But sometimes privilege represents having a voice that others will listen to and a power that others should have, in which case I think privilege should be used to dismantle systems of oppression so that others gain that voice and power as well.
In that way, men should use their male privilege to speak out against sexism in spaces where women don’t have access or wouldn’t be safe to do so. White people should use their privilege to undermine racism. Straight people, cis people, able bodied people, the list could go on.
In this case, if the oppressive system is a two-party system that holds people’s votes hostage to fear and threatens the lives of those who can’t even vote, then am I not using my privilege to contribute to that system of oppression by blindly following Hillary?
Yet I cannot simply wonder, “Why don’t we just leave the two-parties?” because I know it’s not that simple to break out of a toxic system.
In conclusion, I suppose the cards could be read in multiple ways. One outcome could be that we join with the “devil” (note, in this instance, the devil is the two-party system, not Hillary herself) for the time being but still undergo a paradigm shift that leads to a more balanced future.
The other possibility is that we reject the binds and toxic manipulation of the Devil card, experience painful shattering of our current worldview, and come through to more balance that way.
Ultimately, this election is a mess, and I don’t necessarily think there can be a good outcome regarding who gets the presidency. What we can get from this though is the motivation to think carefully about our choices.
The Devil asks, How do they contribute to our entrapment? The Tower asks, How do they help us create new options? Temperance asks, How do we use our power and our vulnerability alchemically together to create the best outcome?