February 3, 2016

ESSAY: THE CONCIERGE VOTER EXPERIENCE™ © ®

THE BOUTIQUE VOTER EXPERIENCE™ © ®: CLASS AND PRIVILEGE IN THE VOTING PLACE

VOTER SUPPRESSION: A PROGRAM FOR VOTER SUPPRESSION CIVIL ACTION

The purpose is to make visible the direct interactions and consequences that people experience when challenges and obstacles are put in the way of their smooth and unobstructed access to voting.

To see and hear people dramatizing and questioning issues of access at the polling place.

To be directly visible in the voting experiences of specific affluent voters: the electorate who can have an influence where it matters- where right-wing candidates are influenced, like Republican primaries.

Just imagine an affluent, privileged and self-confident voter- say Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, planning his voting experience.

He anticipates taking a few moments during his day, to drive (Lincoln Navigator, silver) to and conveniently park at his attractively landscaped suburban polling place, and run in to complete his ballot. He is dressed well but casually, hair lightly oiled, and wearing a luxuriant wool overcoat. Say Cashmere blend, Charcoal.

He plans to take a few minutes to vote, confident that the experience will be predictable and easy. He expects, reasonably, that he won’t experience anything socially jarring or discordant or challenging. He expects no disturbance- no inconvenience, and no inconvenient truths. He will be among familiar people, his friends and neighbors, alike in skin color and social status.

This is the Affluent Voter Experience. The Boutique Voter Experience™©®. It is the embodiment of harmony and homogeneity.

Compare it to an airline traveller at the Executive Lounge, with Elite Status. In airports, the different air-travel experiences of people of differing status are visible. People of different classes are ranked and serried in queues that dramatize the elite status of the privileged.

This social drama might enhance the experience of the privileged traveler, as it reinforces a person’s sense of importance and merit. It is not incongruent with his or her (no, it’s a he) certainty that it is natural and just that some people should have more privilege than others. In fact, that is the point. It is exactly one’s relative status that makes the experience better. It is convenient. It is by contrast to the sweaty inconvenience of others that it is just so damned convenient. And that offers positive gratification.

One avoids not only inconvenience, but also the stigmatizing social theater of being publicly suspected and surveilled. One escapes being marked and classified as an outsider -having one’s body acted upon as though it is a threat to the Just Society. A threat to the (deservedly) smooth (and safe) operations that the Insiders enjoy.

Private aviation and travel ‘concierges’ offer more. They allow the rich to simply segregate themselves from the whole experience. We can either imagine, or we know, what travel by private jet must be like. Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, apparently has a fuckin’ helicopter! (Subtly silver, with Bordeaux leather.) Behold, the elegantly displayed jets at the Aspen Airport, where the Private Aviation Experience terminal cost more than the public one.

Amazing and startling things in the universe can be consumed as ‘concierge’ experiences now. Private pilots used to have to pick up deli plates before meeting the Folks for the flight. No more! Pet concierge is yesterday. Today, Concierge mountaineering. And think of the business opportunities! Seriously, let’s talk.

I really wouldn’t know, but the scrutiny and discipline that one feels in an airport “screening™ © ®” (especially if Travelling While Brown) may feel just one teeny bit like the physical domination and repression that Black and Brown kids experience in urban schools, or the carceral disciplining one feels just knowing that one might be ‘stopped and frisked™©®’.

This is the experience of the alien. The non-citizen, the underclass, the sub-citizen, waiting in line to be scrutinized, scanned and interrogated at a border crossing or customs and immigration station. Imagine an Israeli checkpoint. This is literally a disciplining and intrusion and invasion and confining of the body.

This is the filtering and separation that creates the social realities of the privileged and the underclass.

It takes place in the airline terminal…. or anyplace where a ‘boutique’ experience might allow one to avoid it- to not witness it. And for sure, witnessing this is not at all what the affluent might desire, or expect, of their Boutique Voter Experience. Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, doesn’t want that.

The Right Wing is actively repressing popular elections. It is actively and unjustly denying the rights of certain (predictable) classes of voters, with the cynical intent of anti-democratically seizing control of government. Wow. Nasty.

This takes place through the filtering and separating and categorizing and excluding and disenfranchising of specific people- based on their voting habits. It takes place physically in the segregation and concealment of social experiences in separate voting places. There are no queues of people of distinctly lower social class, marked by differences in skin color and clothing, on display at the Boutique Polling Place. And there is no inconvenience.

Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan will certainly not want to see himself mirrored as differentially privileged, here. Privileged people on their way to and from voting are often in their most virtuously self-satisfied moments.

Voting is the illusion of participating in the process that signifies a system that democratically represents everyone. Everyone. Privileged voters view themselves mirrored in a social frame where all people appear as equal. Equally empowered, equally enfranchised, everyone with equal access… to voting. Voting together is the collective ritual act that both creates and signifies the Just Society, that enriches…. Well, us.

In untroubled, harmonious agreement, all voters march to the voting place together, in unity and solidarity, creating the Just Society (and the highest possible trickle-down free-market good), for all. It’s like singing Christmas carols. Rosy cheeks and Fa la la la la. Who doesn’t like Christmas? This act is their pilgrimage to the voting place to ceremonially cast their ballot. Voting is a ritual act of absolution.

Their “I Voted™©®” stickers are their warrants that they have discharged their burden of duty and self-sacrifice to the system that affords them such abundance and ease. Freedom isn’t free, and we who benefit from the Great Democracy have a sober and noble duty to it… (Though that shit can get you seriously on your way to being shot to death, martyred in the sleet on a rural highway in Harney County, Oregon… I bet there is a respectable shrine of plastic flowers at that mile marker.)

(Self-identified ‘independent’ and ‘undecided’ people, when presented with a microphone by a pollster, are hilariously righteous in their simultaneous beliefs that they are discharging their burden of duty, creating Democracy from thin air, and being enfranchised within it as virtuous and deserving insiders –all with one rushed, grammatically ill-formed, ignorant and blindly stupid utterance.)

(This here happened in Texas: two Good Guys With Guns™©®, upholding the wisdom of open-carrying in the name of Safety and (strangely unsurprisingly) in the same fast-food restaurant (Tacos I think), had a throw-down where each of them accused the other of being a Bad Guy with a Gun. This is insanely inevitable. In a slightly saner version of the same world, they would have started blazing away at each other, right there in the Heart O’ Texas, by the soft drink dispenser. They would be wearing Concha belts and handlebar moustaches and Big Hats and big ‘ol revolvers…. And and and Harley Davison bandanas and and and American Flag™©®. lapel pins… Patriot Blood will mingle with little packets of sugar and Hot Sauce™©®. Women and children will scream… that right there is some inconvenient shit. Let’s make sure they all have sabers. I’m having those bitches made up in China right now.)

Back to business. Sadly, regrettably, but out of duty to the Great Society, some virtuous person might have to challenge someone else’s presence in the Temple. Somebody might have to call the cops to enforce the sanctity of the (Boutique) Polling Place. Somebody might know that the appearance of pro-democracy symbolism in the form of the Wrong Person at the heart of the democratic ritual, in the voting place… well, should be stopped. Back at the polling place, there might be a beatdown.

That wouldn’t be comfortable or convenient while Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, is having his Boutique Voter Experience. (I suppose Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, is packin’ Blued Steel. Next time you see him, folks, at the Old Town Tavern, as you inconvenience him, think this over. But do start videoing when the shouting starts. His Cashmere Blend, Charcoal, is super, btw, for concealed carry.)

Imagine being the cop who starts that beatdown. Imagine being the District Judge who has to argue that a shackled, bruised-up person of the wrong color or class was interfering with someone else’s free access to a voting place. Who has to (publicly) find that some transgression has (or hasn’t) taken place, that something a person has done at a polling place amounts to trespass, or obstructing free access to a voting place, or uttering the wrong speech, or reflexively trying to evade the violence of a cop, or being in the presence of a cop who “feels threatened…” After all, authority –authority in the name and in the very Temple of Democracy– has been challenged. The Judge is going to need some Amicus Briefs©®. I’m having some of those made up, in a Garment-dyed Silk Blend, Napoleon Blue.

The Judge will have to deal with a right-wing shit-storm when he might, prudently, have to find that this brown person didn’t do anything wrong. They will have ‘interfered with an officer’, though, and resisted arrest.

There must be ‘disturbances’ and arrests in voting places. There always are when the people are Black and Brown. We should know about them. It’s just not happening in the Boutique. In the civilized world beyond our borders, where there is active public protest and public resistance, it happens in times and places of elections.

This is a delicious muddle. A person can be guilty, simultaneously, of interfering with someone else’s access to voting, and of having their own access brutally denied to them. Awesome!

Could a person be guilty of committing voter fraud or obstructing access, because they were being in the way, or asking too many questions, or not enough questions, while simultaneously not exercising or being denied their vote? They could be guilty of trying (or not trying) to vote in the wrong place, or trying to vote wrong, or saying the wrong thing while trying to vote, or not having the right piece of paper, or of standing here instead of there, or being in the wrong voting place… it’s all just so beautifully- wrong. People could be guilty of all kinds of of voter heinousness while being denied their voting rights. Guilty of Trying to Vote Wrong. Voting While Wrong. Wrong Person.

Some day, a couple of well-packed Good Guys With Guns™©® are going to decide that some brown person is Obstructing their Access to a polling place. Or that, in the pure grace of their wise knowledge of the folksy intentions of the Founding Fathers and Scripture, same Brown Person is saying the wrong things or asking the wrong questions or just being… Inconvenient in a Polling Place. Just Being There under Suspicion of Not Being Supposed to Vote.

Start videoing then. Because carrying those guns in a polling place Just Makes Sense™©®. Before long, in Arizona, it will be not only legal, but Bounden Duty, for a Good Guy With A Gun™©® to demand to see the (newly required) Homeland Citizen Papers™©® of a Person with the Appearance of Not Being Supposed to Vote.

Democracy is convenient…. for some. Interfering with a person’s access to their vote is… unlawful, terrible… anti-Democratic and anti-American and anti-Christian and all kinds of nasty. Interfering and inconvenience is the name of the game here. The Right will inconvenience you right out of the Electorate. Participatory democratic activism and accountability can be damned inconvenient. I think they are supposed to be. Democracy isn’t necessarily comfortable.

The reality of the economic and racial underclass is constructed and reinforced, and can be witnessed, right in the Voting Place. Maybe it is possible to unintentionally and without aforethought coordinate some very mild and gentle political theatre. The program is to dramatize the real impact of policies and practices that make voting less convenient, less comfortable, less accessible and even functionally impossible for some voters –but not others. And more broadly, to call attention to the specific intention of voter suppression policies to literally overtly deny their voting rights (not privileges) to classes of persons.

This might be made visible through the immediate experiences of a specific audience: the socially homogeneous class of voters who wouldn’t otherwise become directly aware of any such differences, let alone how dramatic they are, and how profoundly they are experienced.

‘Rules’ that are disingenuously presented as benign and pragmatic common-sense can be shown in practice to operate discriminatorily, based on one’s (visible) color or class- or polling zip-code.

‘Rules’ might visibly surface, right in the Polling Places of the Privileged, as profiling, segregation, categorizations, negative judgments, pathology, discrimination and criminalization, based undeniably on class and race.

Voting experiences in different places are very different based on class and color. These are erased by geographic separation and segregation. These can be made visible to one another –but particularly to the white and privileged, who might dislike being inconvenienced- by deflating the physical/geographical separation and segregation of these experiences. The intent is to bring the appearance of the voting experience of those whose democratic inclusion is threatened into the place where the more privileged and insular –and convenient- one happens. Inequality of access is no longer obscured by one polling place being geographically distant and invisible to another, separated by that fundamental predictor of injustice, the zip code.

This works by capturing the attention of voters, by affecting their expected Boutique Voting Experience in a way that might, as an unintended and indirect byproduct, be inconveniencing. Specific, racially and economically homogeneous voting places can be identified easily (and in a way that could be proved to be “non-partisan”) by selecting precincts for the largest number of voting machines per registered voter. That’s actually really… convenient!

Someone will have a legal opinion about whether uttering and publishing such Satirical Comedy Stuff as this would be some kind of Conspiracy to Commit Voter Fraud or Something if it weren’t Satirical Comedy Stuff. There is no suggestion here of trying to affect an electoral outcome here or anything. All of the nefarious ways under the sun for doing that would be legal – until they’re not.

Our courageous Mentor in the Midwest, who conceived of this program, points out that merely inconveniencing them might move them to demand policy change, and vote accordingly, and that whether they even notice the voting inconvenience (much less disenfranchisement) of others is an unnecessary byproduct.

Imagine Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, conveniently parking at this polling place and finding a long line! Really, it needs only to be a long line- an unexpected inconvenience. But more! Imagine that it is a long line of colorful and interesting people, who are there, they say, because here, the line is much, much shorter than at their precinct. Also, the floor and the toilets are much nicer- cleaned by brown people.

Imagine those people, taking up the time of the gentle, patient and sainted poll volunteers, asking them questions… Is it OK for me to vote here, where the line is much shorter? Am I On the List? Why not? Why? Is this ID OK? Why not? And where SHOULD I go to vote? Can I REALLY not get there by bus? And will I be allowed to vote? And why might I not be allowed to vote? So many questions!

And for later: how might proposed (American Legislative Exchange Council draft) legislation and ‘rules’ affect whether and how different kinds of persons can vote? Or how inconvenient it might be? And what’s a puzzled citizen to do?

Imagine someone gets a van, and on Election Day circulates around and gathers up cheerful people who are bored, or cynical about the value of their vote, or disenfranchised from voting, or find it to just be too damned inconvenient (or impossible) at their polling place, or are looking for some wholesome sing-along fun. Imagine someone makes laminated cards with these benign and sincere questions (and song lyrics) on them, and we can all pass them around and take turns going through the line.

Obstructing a person’s free access to a polling place is illegal. Physically interfering is illegal. Yard signs, pickets, and certain kinds of speech are illegal at polling places.

Someone, please, chime in here with some authority on the law. ACLU? Adam? Mike?

Standing in line and asking questions isn’t. At least some questions. And singing. At least until it is. The test of that happens when someone (whether Cashmere blend, Charcoal, or Ballistic Nylon, in a nice Tactical Black) becomes troubled that they are being really inconvenienced.

What if a mute person with questions turns out to be ineligible to vote, or not a citizen? What if they are not supposed to vote here, of if they don’t have the proper piece of paper to find out? Or if it not clear- has just not yet been determined? What if they speak only Qechuan? These things happen, authentically, at some polling places. It’s just such a long line!

What might happen when someone decides that any sort of boundary has been crossed and intervention is required is an interesting proposition. Somebody, somewhere, someday, is going to get dragged out by their hair. God help us all if they should appear, retrospectively, to have ‘reached’ for their ‘waistband’™©®. None of my pants, charcoal or otherwise, have a fuckin’ ‘waistband’. We threw out my Grandfather’s slacks.

Alternatively, I submit, for your consideration, the Concierge Voting Experience™©®. Just Imagine! We’ll take care of it all, and ensure that you feel privileged and deserving. We will take your tasteful bags (tanned leather, Caramel, Monogrammed) and whisk you, behind glass, past greasy ranks of sub-citizens on your way to your very own Concierge Voting Experience. Will give you an exclusive, embossed ‘I Voted’ sticker, in the color theme of your choice. Even Governor Rick Snyder, of Michigan, will be unable to resist the Concierge Voter Experience™©®!

We’re leasing some limousines and purchasing cotton gloves (cotton, White), to take advantage of this Hot Business Opportunity, right now. For a mere $19.95, you can be a Concierge Voter Experience™©® Charter Elite Platinum™©® Franchisee. Just don’t be brown. See our ad on Craigslist. I’m nailing down all the Internet Domains and trademarking Voncierge™©® – Unless Halliburton™©® has gotten here before us. They did last time.

 

Filed under: Blog: ESSAYS
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editor @ 1:20 am

2 Comments »

  1. What a delicious muddle!

    Comment by LS — February 9, 2016 @ 3:22 pm

  2. We have similar appetites! Thank you for commenting.

    Comment by editor — March 4, 2016 @ 11:50 pm

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