You don’t have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. You don’t have to pick Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, either. You can reject this paradigm, and choose to live your life in such a way as to render the three-ring circus of American politics irrelevant.
We have learned so many times already that this system does not serve us. If you honestly still believe that the false dichotomy of the two-party system offers you any sort of meaningful decision to make, then I don’t think there is anything I can do to help you.
But if you feel disenfranchised by a system that isn’t working for you the way it claims to, then please hear me out.
Something is fundamentally flawed about the way our government operates in this era. I’m sure you feel it, too. We can point to a million different reasons why and try to imagine what it would take to correct those problems, but I assure you that they will never be fixed.
Why? Because they cannot be fixed, and those who hold the authority to make the necessary changes will absolutely never do anything that could possibly loosen their stranglehold on our society.
We cannot change the system using its own framework. In the words of Zig Ziegler, “If you want to have something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.” If we want the freedom and liberty to pursue happiness on our own terms, then we have to come up with some other way of organizing ourselves.
It’s up to us to reject the current paradigm of the status quo and seek out ways of living that don’t involve our oppressive and manipulative government. There is another way forward, and voting doesn’t have anything to do with it.
Voting Is Not The Solution
I’ll say this as clearly and succinctly as I can: Your vote doesn’t count. Sometimes I feel like I’m telling little kids that Santa isn’t real when I bring this up – everybody knows it in their hearts, but most people don’t want to accept it.
No matter who I might choose on my ballot, I can say with certainty that Donald Trump will win in my state of Kentucky. I knew this a year ago – hell, I could’ve told you this ten years ago if I had known Trump would be running.
Because we operate under the bizarre and outdated electoral college system, the popular vote is literally irrelevant, meaning your individual vote does not matter. Don’t believe me? I need only point out the shameful 2000 election, in which George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote, as proof that your vote doesn’t count.
More people picked Al Gore for president, but it didn’t matter. Because voters don’t pick the president – the electoral college does, ostensibly on our behalf. [Post-election edit: hey whaddaya know, it happened again - more people voted for Clinton than Trump, and yet Trump is now our president.]
And here’s the real rub: ultimately, it doesn’t even matter which candidate takes the office, because nothing substantial will change either way.
Presidents simply are not responsible for handling the things that we elect them to do: they have no authority over the economy, they can’t “create jobs” in any meaningful way, and they can’t make grand sweeping changes without years of frustration and battles with Congress that water them down to the point that they’re nearly unrecognizable (think Obamacare).
Moreover, even if we believe the fallacy that the president could have some meaningful role to play beyond being a charismatic figurehead, it still doesn’t change the fact that s/he would be immediately stifled by the countless moneyed interests pulling the strings behind the scenes to ensure that the government operates only in their favor.
Healthcare will always be an expensive bureaucratic nightmare as long as the insurance companies continue to write the laws, and the same is true for just about every major sector of the economy that you can think of.
The system is just not designed to receive your input, unless you pay taxes on the scale of millions or billions. The Powers That Be don’t want our opinions, and they certainly don’t want us making any decisions about who gets to be The Powers That Be.
So they give us the two-year-long reality TV sideshow of the presidential election cycle, and pump us full of positive messages that we can make a difference if we’ll just continue to buy into the placebo of voting. But we don’t have to – instead, we can choose to be proactive within our circle of influence.
Circle of Concern Versus Circle of Influence
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes the difference between a person’s circle of concern and her circle of influence. The circle of concern encapsulates all of the things that we worry about but have no control over; within the much smaller circle of influence is where we find the things we can actually affect in a meaningful way.
When we allow ourselves to get swept up in the fear-mongering of a modern presidential election – which falls well outside of our circle of influence – it eats up all of our energy, because no matter how much we invest in it, we will never see a return.
All energy aimed at the circle of concern is negative: the more you give it, the more your circle of influence will begin to shrink, which leads you to feeling ever more helpless and despondent.
The way forward is to focus on your circle of influence – the things you can actually control. Proactive people channel that energy that others would waste in their circle of concern, and transform it into meaningful action.
Just as energy spent within the circle of concern has a net negative effect, taking action within your circle of influence creates a positive feedback loop in which your efforts feed into each other and fuel further productivity. This tends to have the effect of expanding your circle of influence.
If you’re wondering at this point how to apply this lesson, here’s where the good news arrives: you get to define the most productive use of your energy for yourself.
Stand For What You Believe In, Not What You Oppose
The last time I owned a TV was nearly ten years ago. For a couple years after I kicked the habit, I took great pride in the fact that my home and my head were free of that clutter, and if you asked some acquaintances of mine about me they might mention that “he’s that guy who doesn’t have a TV.”
But these days, the fact of having no TV is mostly irrelevant to my life. I’m always surprised when I invite people to our house and they notice that a TV is conspicuously absent, because I just don’t think about it anymore.
Instead, I’m too busy gardening, building, writing, cooking, and doing all of the other things that I love to do with my free time. I’m not defined by my opposition to TV anymore, but by the positive actions that I take in my daily life for personal and interpersonal satisfaction.
We need to approach politics in this same manner. I don’t want to be defined as “the guy who doesn’t vote,” because that describes what I am not, rather than what I am. Instead, I’m the guy who plants fruit trees in his yard with his wife.
You have to accept things the way they are in order to move on and be proactive, or else you’re reduced to just another angry wall of text on someone’s Facebook feed, someone who might otherwise be a meaningful part of your community if not for this artificial divide that’s been thrust between you by the two-party system.
Why We’re Planting Fruit Trees on Election Day 2016
For us, planting trees on election day is not an act of protest; it’s an act of acceptance.
We accept that we cannot influence the course of the presidential election, or the absurd machinations of our government at large, but we can influence the health and fertility of our backyard, which has a positive effect on us as well as our friends, our families, and our community.
When I invest positive energy in my garden, it returns it to me tenfold, and I take that out into the world to help me radiate good vibes wherever I go.
If this sounds too New-Age to you, then I worry you may not be familiar with these kinds of reciprocal exchanges – they’re a very real phenomenon. We pass energy between one another in every encounter we have, and that energy is either positive or negative.
I can tell you from experience that when I focus my energy on politics, I radiate nothing but anger, frustration, fear, and negativity – because I cannot control it, and it makes me feel helpless and scared. You'd smell it on me immediately.
But when I focus my efforts on productive actions that have a positive impact within my circle of influence, I become the kindest and most compassionate dude you’ll ever meet. Well, everyone has this capacity! That’s the magic of it.
A few weeks ago, I scored a young peach tree and a dwarf mulberry tree from the kind folks at Brambleberry Permaculture Farm in Paoli, Indiana. Brooke and I planted these trees in the yard at our new rental house on election day, knowing full well that we may never harvest a single fruit from either one.
The Bhagavad-Gita teaches us to focus on our actions themselves, rather than the fruits of those actions. Planting trees is its own reward, and I am so grateful to find myself in a position to do so.
I can't change the world, and I shouldn't want to, either. But I can change my world, and the world at large will be better off for it. Can you imagine how much different our landscapes would look if even a fraction of the voting population chose fruit trees over reality TV?
I don’t believe in Hillary Clinton. I don’t believe in Donald Trump. I don’t believe in Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein, or Barack Obama, either – I just believe in me. That’s reality!