Thou Shalt Not Steal and the Rhetoric of Vote-Counting: An Open Letter

Thou Shalt Not Steal and the Rhetoric of Vote-Counting: An Open Letter

I grew up in a church where most Sundays they read the Ten Commandments and such. I knew them, and still know them, incredibly well. And my family’s been in this country, at least in one branch of the family tree, long enough for me to have relatives that went to war to fight for their rights regarding this no taxation without representation business–in other words, the right to have one’s vote count. The question of vote-counting has mattered since the beginning of this country.

So as I watch the increasingly brazen attempts to silence voters’ voices paired with the silence of my conservative Christian peops, I can’t help but marvel at the levels of cognitive dissonance my conservative peops who still think they’re “moderate” must be going through.

In this article I plan to talk about the rhetoric of vote-counting and how it relates to the ten commandments—and not just thou shalt not steal but way more of them. What can I say? I’m feeling disturbingly inspired today by events current juxtaposed with the past.

Oh, Yeah, and It’s Reformation Day, So This Fits

Not to mention, today’s the observed anniversary of when Martin Luther had the assertive audacity to pound his 95 theses into history. (Well, probably not onto a church door, but it was an assertive act either way.)

Anyway, since ALL of my ancestors I know of fall into that Protestant tradition, it’s highly appropriate that today I put out an assertive open letter of sorts to my peops, helping other more reasonable folks to understand the dynamics I grew up with as well as the dynamics all of us Americans have grown up with to some extent.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

So yeah, let’s talk about the American Revolution and the Founders and their views on vote-counting, shall we?

See, things have been really complicated regarding vote-counting since those days when my ancestors were concerned about everyone having a voice—because, well, let’s be honest, my ancestors could have given a flying f*ck about *everyone* having a voice. (Concerned about my language more than what’s happening? See what I have to say about swear-policing here and here.)

They wanted a voice for white men, and preferably landowning ones, and pretty much no one else.

They were pretty much only out for their own good, let’s be honest.

To them, everyone else was to either to be conquered or treated like property.

I Know, I Know, I’m Late to the Party on This

I mean, I dimly knew this before the last four years’ worth of apocalypse made this sickness that’s been in our country since the beginning (not COVID, mind you—being metaphorical here!) abundantly clear. But current events are making it incredibly stark in terms that I can no longer dismiss or deny or gaslight into oblivion (see my piece last week for more about gaslighting).

Nope. It’s really blatantly clear. What conservatives these days are trying to preserve is the gangrenous side of the heritage from my patriotic ancestors—the legacy of stealing power at others’ expense through trying to remove the power of the vote.

Now, I’m sure my BIPOC friends are all shaking their heads at me too, and I feel you. Sometimes it takes an apocalypse or two to make things clear to us white folks deeply socialized into white supremacy. I apologize to you that it’s taken me this long, and promise to do better now that I know. As a reminder, the meaning of that word—apocalypse—in the Greek is “to make clear.”

Power Over All Else

Well, the current actions of the Republicans have made baldly clear what they care about, and that is gaining and maintaining power. They care, sadly enough, about nothing else.

They don’t care about the common good. In fact, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, the current party in charge has actually demonized the common good. Any time some sort of policy that promotes loving one’s neighbor as oneself comes up for discussion, the devil term “socialism” gets applied to it as a way to invoke fears in their base, as I’ve discussed here and here.

Conserving Which Part of the Heritage, Exactly?

Interestingly, in seeking to “conserve” the gangrenous side of my white ancestors’ legacy, these “modern conservatives” seem to be seeking to “progress” from the rest of the system of government—the healthy side of the governmental system my ancestors helped to set up.

That whole “no taxation without representation” business? Screw that.

Checks and balances between the various branches of government? Screw that.

The right to protest? Screw that.

The idea of the press as the “fourth estate”? A institution outside of government designed to push with checks and balances to keep government responsible? Screw that.

The idea that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through reasonable policies toward public health and other thoughts for the common good? Screw that.

Doing Evil Deeds without Cover; or, The Emperor Has No Clothes

Screw it all, they seem to be saying. Scratch that—no f*cking seems.

They ARE saying it, flat out—and they have been, for four years.

Ever since grabbing people by the p*ssy was somehow deemed to be an acceptable part of presidential* rhetoric. And only those so deep in the propagandistic gaslighting put forth by the current head of the government and his cronies could be so deep into believing this garbage not to see it.

The Continuing Gaslighting

And we’re still being told it’s not happening.

That the election is somehow free and fair.

That the pandemic is over.

That everyone has a voice that needs one.

And THERE—there’s the rub.

Who The Right Thinks Should Only Have Representation

Because according to these folks, only powerful aggressively masculine Republican white men and those who enable them ought to have a voice and a vote.

Only they, they believe, should get to decide who has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Everyone else can go screw themselves. Or, to put it in starker, darker terms, get raped. (AGAIN, NONE OF THIS IS REMOTELY OKAY!!! Nor should it be normalized.)

Calling My Peops to Repentance

Let me be clear, to my religious peops:

THIS is stealing. It is a deep, dark, yet-to-be-repented set of trespasses against God in the guise of the least of these.

THIS is coveting one’s neighbor’s voice and representation. It is a deep, dark, yet-to-be-repented set of trespasses against God and the least of these.

THIS is rape and pillage and killing. It is a deep, dark, yet-to-be-repented trespasses against God and the least of these.

Again, the Emperor Follows No Commandments and Cares About No One

I could go on, because ALL those commandments have been violated here in particularly egregious ways, but conservative Christian friends, I know you know them as well as I do. I trust you can work the rest out for yourselves.

And speaking of repentance, why, oh much-loved conservative Christian friends, do you continue to vote for a man who has said openly that he’s never ever felt the need to ask for forgiveness from God or anyone else?

For the love of all that is holy and just, this man, who the most twisted memes compare to King David, is King David, except without a really important difference. There’s no Psalm 51 anywhere remotely in or near this man.

He’s Darth Vader without the kicky reconciliation scene.

Reclaiming the Healthy Storylines

For the love of all that is holy, my dear peops, THAT is not the storyline you taught me to support.

Calling My Peops to Repentance

For the sake of all that is holy and just, I sincerely call you away from supporting these blatant violations of the healthier sides of men’s law and your own valuation of God’s law.

Please, for the love, come home. There’s space for you at the table if you turn from supporting these wicked ways, that are not okay, and need not be continued to be normalized.

More Reasonable Friends, We Have Much Work to Do!

And to the rest of you more reasonable and empathetic people, let’s be clear: the gangrene that’s showed up these last four years has been particularly vicious, but it is not an anomaly. No matter how well or poorly this week’s election goes, we have much more healing work to do, friends. Let’s keep at this relay marathon of ours as well as we all can!

A Final Charge

Go team #AssertiveSpirituality! Let’s continue to do what we can where we are with what we’ve got to keep working against the toxic crap toward a healthier world for us all. We can do this thing.

Looking for more resources toward speaking up for what’s right and dealing with the conflict that results?

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2 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not Steal and the Rhetoric of Vote-Counting: An Open Letter

  1. To DS Leiter: Thank you for such a clear and powerful expression of what you and I see as right. I have well meaning Christian friends who profess that anger and negativity are bad at a time like this adding to the chaos. Well I am fearful and angry and your offering today gives validity to those feelings. I have told my “no negativity” friends that I fear “Rome is burning.” And I imagine Germans were talking flowers and art as Hitler rose up to take over and begin his extermination. The day Trump takes off with a bus full of migrants to toss in the river I need to know at some point I stood up and shouted “I believe this is wrong.” Be it negative or not! I feel you there with me and I thank you. Glad to know you’ll still be standing by if we lose the fight this week. Bernie

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Thou Shalt Not Steal…

by DS Leiter Time to read: 7 min