Register, Deregister, Register, Deregister, Register

Peggy is visiting relatives in North Carolina, and I am relishing my freedom. Two nights ago, I sorrowfully reached the end of Babbitt, and am now reading the short stories of Isaac Singer. Today, I did various carpentry projects, and sharp shooting pains up and down the outside of my left leg are my punishment. Nothing I do agrees with my knee, although some things disagree a great deal more than others.

I also registered to vote today, two hours before the deadline. It was an ugly choice. I registered the first time because I was twenty-one, and it was a rite of passage. I deregistered twenty-five years later because I had given up on the system. Democrat or Republican, it made no difference to me. More than that, their platforms contain contradictions. Take the phenomenal increase and the even more phenomenal birth rates of illegal aliens, for example. The Democrats favor the creation and enlargement of social programs that attract illegals, yet the Democrats also claim to be the party of the environment. How do they harmonize unchecked population growth and environmental protection? They ignore it.

The Republicans make much of supporting law and order, yet the Republicans also support cheap labor. This prevents them from actually stopping the flow of people who are breaking the law by crossing our borders. Both parties are thus limited to token and self-canceling measures in the face of problems that require substantive action.

For reasons unremembered, I registered again a few years after I deregistered. Maybe there was some ballot measure that I was worked up about—probably a tax hike—since I never get excited about any of the candidates. Then I deregistered a second time because I got tired of being called to jury duty. I served on civil juries, criminal juries, a regular grand jury, a grand jury that heard nothing but child abuse cases for six months, state juries, city juries, and juries in three states. Every two years another jury summons would arrive, and every time I served, I went away feeling that my time had been wasted by a system that has little to do with justice and a lot to do with pandering to scum and enriching lawyers. I knew that if I deregistered, the courts could still find me on the DMV role, but I would have reduced my exposure.

Anyway, after tossing the matter around in my head, I biked over to the voter registration office today and filled out their form. The woman clerk looked at me nervously. After I got home and chanced to pass a mirror, I noticed that I was wearing old and dirty clothes, and remembered that I hadn’t bathed, shaved, or combed my hair for three days. I suspected that my appearance had frightened her, although, in all honesty, I looked no worse than most of the people on downtown sidewalks. Maybe it was my mirrored sunglasses—or maybe it was just her. I wasn’t asked for I.D. I could have snuck in from Mexico yesterday for all anyone cared.

Why did I register? Mostly to vote against a county income tax. Since voters have voted against tax hikes for years, somebody down at the court house got the bright idea that maybe what we need is a whole new kind of tax. Right. I will also vote on some of the voter-sponsored initiatives, although those in power are usually able to ignore the will of the people. For example, a proposal for the West Eugene Parkway passed three times, yet environmentalists on the city council stalled the project until federal money was no longer available.

Then there are the ballot initiatives that are backed by the government. Voters passed a seatbelt law that contained absolutely no penalty. I didn’t quite believe the government’s promise that it only wanted to encourage seatbelt use, rather than coerce it. Sure enough, billboards all over the state soon proclaimed, “Click-it or Ticket.” Trust government? Ever? About anything? Well, if they threaten me, they are more likely to be telling the truth than if they say something I want to hear. For example, I believe them when they say they will confiscate my property at gunpoint if I don’t pay their taxes; but I don’t for a moment believe that they’re going to operate efficiently, reduce corruption, or make the streets safer.

I feel dirty just by registering because my name on the voters’ list implies that I have faith in the good will of government. Sure, government does a lot of good but, at a profound level, government is based upon coercion and, at a practical level, upon greed, lying, and manipulation. Its ratio of evil to good is considerable and ever causes me to question the extent to which I wish to ally myself with it.

Besides, I am embarrassed by my government. I don’t know much about other governments, and I wouldn’t be surprised but what some of them are even worse. The difference is that, for the most part nowadays, they keep their evil at home, whereas we somehow have the idea that it is our place to force ourselves upon the affairs of the world. How much grief could we avoid, and how much money could we save if we would only leave the rest of the planet alone!