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The Opium Of The Masses

By Max Kantar

24 October, 2008

This November, Americans face a choice. But the choice not between John McCain or Barak Obama; it is between submitting to the will of the corporate-military establishment or taking a moral stand in boycotting their rigged institutions of fake democracy.

Democracy, in any meaningful sense, is a system that allows people to have a say in decisions to the degree that they are affected. Do we have that? With popular support for the Bush administration continually hovering at around 20% and support for the mostly Democratic congress struggling to maintain double digits, you can decide whether we have a democratic system or not for yourself.

They tell us to vote if we care about the economy. Vote for whom? Obama could not reiterate enough times in the "debate" how much he "agreed" with McCain on the issue of the near trillion dollar Wall Street bailout, despite overwhelming public opposition to it. The message to the public was clear: "We don't care what you think. Our job is to protect the wealth of those who own the country, not those who built it."

They tell us to vote if we care about war, foreign policy, and the horrendous image of the US around the world. Vote for Obama or McCain, both who vow to enact a "surge" of US occupying forces into Afghanistan, in spite of the sharp rise in US-NATO bombings of civilians, most notably the massacre of 90 innocent people in late August, two thirds of which were under the age of 15.

We can vote on Iraq, but our choice is not between war and peace. The choice is between two war strategies. One continues the Bush-Cheney-Rice plan, and the other entails significant US troops, privately contracted mercenaries, and the maintenance of extravagant foreign (US) military bases, not to mention potential US operations in the future in Iraq. Both plans continue the aggressive war against the wishes of the Iraqi public, the American public, and the international community.

Not to be outdone by the Maverick's burning passion for imperial violence, liberal Obama has declared that he strongly supports military strikes in Pakistan, further threatening the already trembling stability of the region by violating sovereign territory with killings and assaults.

Should we vote if we care about peace in Israel-Palestine, a conflict with global implications? Unlike the slight deviations of policy mentioned above between those who wish to rule over us, we have a truly bipartisan commitment to continue blocking a peaceful settlement through providing the overwhelming military, economic, and diplomatic support for the US-Israeli illegal military occupation of Palestinian land, illegal colonial settlement expansion, and the starvation and imprisonment of the 1.5 million human beings trying to stay alive in the Gaza Strip.

Either way we vote, we give money to kill Palestinians, support Israeli terror, and avoid peace based on international law and human rights. That has been US policy for decades.

Turning to the health care crisis, both candidates refuse to recognize what has been the population's wish for decades: the abolition of for-profit healthcare. Thousands of insured Americans are going to die in the next four years because both candidates refuse to support preexisting legislation that guarantees all necessary medical treatment to everyone. [1]

America has the most prisoners of any country in the world. Our corporate built prisons are a reflection and symbol of a violently unequal and racist society where black men are incarcerated at a rate of nearly 400% more than whites. Black men in America are locked up at a rate nearly six times that of Black men under the notorious South African Apartheid regime in the early 90s. [2]

Our prisons are filled with the poor and disenfranchised: social conditions that transcend race in American dungeons. This socioeconomic/human rights issue is off the debating table. Neither exclusively Democratic nor Republican, this is an American policy.

Let us not forget either, that a vote for either presidential hopeful is a clear declaration of support for the continued Bush-Cheney anti-constitution program of illegal spying and wiretapping of American citizens. Are we really willing to accept this as a permanent American policy?

Elections in the US are nothing more than ratifications of illegitimate power and approval of concentrated wealth. So long as we continue to rationalize our vote by selecting the "lesser of two evils" vying for Chief Terrorist Commander and Upholder of Elite Interests, we will be giving our tacit approval to and consent of the continued human rights violations committed by the bipartisan power structure.

This business of selecting indentured servants of existing power is more symbolic as a means of conquest of the popular will rather than that of democracy. Perhaps we were never taught that the wonderful advancements our country has made over the years came as a result of popular struggle, not electoral politics. [3]

When we place our political energy into elections, power and privilege always win while our movements die. In our country, voting is the opium of the masses.

When we cast our ballots for the McCains and Obamas of this country, blood continues to be shed on the battlefields of justice, not only around the world as the US continues its imperial crusade to protect the world from the threat of democracy, but at home as well in America's prisons, hospitals, factories, courts, ghettos, working neighborhoods—in essence, on America's "main street."

We cannot be, in good moral conscience, participants in this deceitful and superficial process legitimizing crimes of the powerful and an economic system erected for the wealthy. "After all, is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded?" [4]

Yes, let us make a choice in November, a choice to stop "tinkering with the machinery" of the Washington-Wall Street establishment of exploitation and violence and commit ourselves to taking matters into our own hands to bring about self-determination and justice for our countrymen/women and our fellow human beings around the world. [5]


1 House Resolution (H.R.) 676 is the bill introduced in February of 2005 by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) which guarantees single payer, not for profit, healthcare to every American. In addition to its obvious humane benefits, it will save the US several billion dollars annually, according to The Citizens Alliance for National Health Insurance. (

2 According to the organization, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, (LEAP), under South African Apartheid in 1993, Black men were incarcerated at a rate of 841 per 100,000. In the US in 2004, Black men were incarcerated at a rate of 4,400 per 100,000. (

3 For a further discussion on social change, elections, and popular struggle in American history, please see Howard Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States. Using impeccable sources and research, Zinn illustrates to the reader how when mass movements in the US attempted to press their demands through the electoral process, the movements fizzled out with little or no results.

4 Quoted words are pulled from Henry David Thoreau's 1849 essay, "Resistance to Civil Government" or also known as "Civil Disobedience."

5 The quoted words, "tinkering with the machinery," are the words of the late US Supreme Court Justice, Harry Blackmun, who famously noted that he would "no longer tinker with the machinery of death." Blackmun was referring to the institution of the death penalty as a form of criminal punishment.

Max Kantar is a freelance writer and undergraduate. He can be reached at [email protected]

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