Should thinking Americans sit out the presidential election?Are the choices in this year’s presidential election so sorry that thinking Americans might as well just sit it out? One of my respected colleagues at The Independent, opinion editor Jason Gottfried, postulates that the answer to the question is “yes” in his piece, “Mainstream media vs. alternative media in the Clinton/Trump election.” His argument is persuasive.

He condemns both the mainstream media and the alt-right media for belching forth the agreed-upon narrative of the political wings they represent. Only by persistence and a willingness to keep an open mind will the diligent reader discover the unabashedly ugly truth about both presidential candidates. Of the two, Gottfried reasons after a perusal of the sources he cites, Clinton is the worse choice. Trump, of course, is no prize, and on this Jason and I wholeheartedly agree. But not to vote for a presidential candidate and instead cast ballots only in down-ticket races? Here we part ways.

I’ve just returned from spending two weeks in China. China is the second communist country I’ve visited in the last several years. The other was Russia in 2003. In both instances, the government-trained, sanctioned, and monitored guides assured us that life in their respective countries was pretty darn good. I was not convinced.

Should thinking Americans sit out the presidential election?When questioned about the plight of the homeless in Shanghai, our Chinese guide assured us that there really wasn’t much of a problem with homeless persons anywhere in the country, despite the fact that we had just passed a city park in which several sleeping figures lay on the ground, covered in tattered rags. In another instance, our tour coach whizzed past cement pillars supporting a monorail track. The pillars were bore angry, black writing in Chinese pictographs. When questioned about these, our guide denied that they were gang signs and quickly changed the subject.

I don’t fault our guides. They have a job to do, and they perform it admirably. In fact, I’m sure most of what they told us they actually believe. I can even imagine myself being in their shoes. I would want to portray my country in it’s best light to foreign tourists. We are products of our environments, our guides and I. We grew up being told that our government officials had our best interests at heart. Mostly.

I, however, have the benefit of living in a country where questioning our government is not simply acceptable, it is nearly mandatory. Writers like my colleague, Gottfried, don’t risk losing his job, having his housing confiscated, or the safety of his friends and family compromised when he expresses his thoughts even though they are contrary to conventional wisdom. (That is, unless you accept the premise of Clinton kill list Gottfried cites.)

In China, however, the central government and it’s massive bureaucracy have perfected the art of controlling every aspect of the lives of its citizens. For example, the government owns every square meter of land in the country. If a citizen’s land is needed for a government project, say a dam or a highway, the land is “taken.” The citizen and family are relocated into one of the thousands of high-rise apartment complexes that seem to crop up overnight. Repeatedly, my traveling companions and I questioned our guides about how the “displaced” felt about these mandatory moves. “They like,” we were told. “Apartments always bigger, more modern, and safer.” The lucky ones also receive a pension and medical benefits. And a job. A government job, like cleaning the airports. “They like…”

Should thinking Americans sit out the presidential election?We happened to be in China over the Moon Festival, which fell on Thursday in some complex calculation of the lunar calendar and the full moon. Our guide explained that since the date fell on Thursday, no one worked on Friday so that they could have a three-day weekend. Everyone, however, did work on Sunday, so the government got back on Sunday what it seems to so generously bestow on Friday. When we asked how this arrangement was decided, we were told this: At the beginning of each calendar year, the central government sends out a notice announcing the calendar for the entire country, nearly all of the 1.3 billion citizens. Our guides were working that day because they were employed by a U.S. company that had an agreement with the Chinese government. Can you even begin to picture such an arrangement working in this country? Of course not.

Our relationship with our government is complicated, as is that of the citizens of communist countries. I am no scholar of the topic, but this I understand: We value our individual rights in a way that I suspect our guides would struggle to comprehend, much less embrace. We have certain expectations that are so intrinsic to our American soul that we barely notice them until or unless they are threatened. Among them are the right to independence of thought, the right to voice our disagreement, and the right to act upon our beliefs.

The First Amendment of the Constitution protects the media — mainstream, alt-right and independent — from government interference. Thus, my friend Jason has not only access to sources on which to base his opinion but also the right to express it publicly without government censorship.

And I have a right to say this: We cannot afford to sit out this presidential election if we value in any way whatsoever the rights we possess. Will one vote make a difference? Answer that for yourself. Is the entire political system corrupt and worthy of the citizenry turning its collective back on it? Befouled by greed and money? Yes. But I am an American, not a Chinese. It is not only my right but also my responsibility to vote as it is equally as much Gottfried’s right to refrain from casting a top-of-the-ballot vote.

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  1. I challenge the idea that Clinton is worse than Trump. Watch PBS Frontline’s episode that covers the lives of both candidate – warts and all. Trump is much scarier than Clinton. He has no clue what average folks’ lives are about. He’s something this nation definitely doesn’t need. For the average working class folks who are supporting him and hoping he’ll do what they need, I hope you’re right, but I very much doubt it.

  2. One documentary, even a really great one, provides neither sufficient nor conclusive data upon which to make a decisive estimation of who is “worse.” I challenge the idea that such a generalized judgment can even be made given the drastically different lives the two individuals have led. Ultimately, it comes down to individual values and which crimes or virtues resonate the most strongly for whom versus which are easy to dismiss. While I agree that Trump surely “has no clue what average folks’ lives are about,” you seem to imply that Hillary Clinton does and seem to forget the time when the Clintons told the public that they were broke ( I don’t think anyone can make an argument that she knows what average folks’ lives are like either, which makes singling out Trump pointless. Both candidates are something this nation doesn’t need, and saying one is “worse” than the other always leads to logical fallacies, minimizing, denial, and cherry-picking in support. When voting becomes a lose-lose situation, democracy is truly dead.

  3. Beautiful interchange of thoughts by all involved. Sadly however we are becoming like the Chinese, and China is becoming like us. I have been to China for extensive periods of time and visited the mainland when HK was still British. Doesn’t make me an expert, but I did spend 3 months treking around in the south, and even made it to Lhasa. That’s the REAL China. Everywhere capitalism has taken hold some way or another. In Zhongdian on the Tibetan frontier giant billboards with images of Lancombe cosmetics and Tissot watches abound in the middle of nowhere. I had no tour group by rhe way – 🙂 The Bottom line in China there is the rise of the billionaire class, and there is even a middle class coming into formation. In America it is a battle of the Billionaires. The media channels are just proxys as they are owned by billionaires. The middleclass, in America, perhaps still alive and well in Utah, is disappearing across the country. Do you think Hillary will be our savior? I know what you think of Trump. The system is currently rigged and that is obvious. Just ask Bernie. So yes, sitting out doesn’t matter, if that is your perogative. In the end the game is fixed. I will vote irregardless, but it won’t mean much to me this time around except fullfilling my civic future and clearing my conscience. PS. most of the vagrants you see in the parks in China are glue huffers, knocked out on Toluene, homeless due to drug addiction.

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