Some Thoughts on Trump vs. Clinton from an Anabaptist-Mennonite Perspective

Some Thoughts on Trump vs. Clinton from an Anabaptist-Mennonite Perspective October 2, 2016


Last night I went to a talk by Dr. Mads Gilbert, an anesthesiologist who did volunteer medical work during the 2014 attack on Gaza by Israel. He also volunteered his medical services during the attacks in 2006, 2008, and 2012.

It was a graphic presentation. He showed us private photographs of dead and wounded Palestinian children, with limbs amputated, and bullet holes and shrapnel wounds carving up their young bodies. Babies with facial burns and teenagers with legs exploded off from the bombings.

One young girl, 5 years old, who received some attention from the BBC, was shot in the back by an Israeli solider and will live the rest of her life in a wheel chair. I saw the gaping bullet wound which severed her spinal chord. Two of her sisters were executed.

One boy, not yet 13, was holding hands with his mother when a bomb landed near the two of them, killing his mother, and blowing off his left arm – which he was using to hold his mother’s hand. I saw this boy’s picture and his amputated arm.

There are so many stories like these, of young children maimed, their limbs shredded by bombs and their little bodies pierced by bullets and shrapnel and their skin charred by fire. Over half the population of Gaza is under 18 years old. Israel is literally waging a war on children. The fires of Gehenna, it seems, are still burning.

The reality is that the Israeli government deliberately targets civilian centers – hospitals, ambulances, schools, apartments, homes – they are bombed in an effort to cripple the will of the Palestinian people. These are war crimes committed by the government of Israel, to go along with their occupation, ethnic cleansing, and economic devastation of Palestine. The statistics are heartbreaking and infuriating.

These things are made possible by the support of the U.S. government. But it is more than that. According to the speakers I’ve heard and the presentations I’ve sat through and the peace-workers I’ve talked to, it might as well be U.S. tanks rolling down the streets of Gaza and U.S. soldiers bullying and murdering Palestinian children. That’s how complicit we are in this. The blood of Palestinian children is on our hands and, honestly, I do not know what to do about it.

Which brings me to the presidential election. Both Trump and Clinton support Israeli militarism, apartheid, and occupation. Both believe the U.S. should increase its financial and technological support of the Israeli military. Both regularly misrepresent what is happening in Palestine to justify their support of Israel. Here is Trump’s speech to AIPAC. Here is Clinton’s, where she outlines, by name, the “defense technology” which Israel and the U.S. have jointly developed.

I am choosing not to vote in this election – though, if there were a candidate with a chance to win and reverse this dreadful foreign policy, I would vote, though it is against my conscience, it is also against my conscience to have the opportunity to end a war and do nothing. I might vote third party, but I am choosing not to partake in a sacrament of the democratic state for the sake of a protest vote. If I am going to violate my conscience, it will be because the alternative is an even greater sin. The last time I voted for president was in the 2008 primaries, when I cast a ballot for Ron Paul, who ran as a major party candidate on an anti-war platform.

My views on voting are, of course, in the minority. Most of my friends will vote, and many will vote for Clinton. Now, I am not particularly interested in telling people how to vote. It is a lifeless, uninspiring task. More, since I do not vote, and I do not care to participate in the system, one may object, perhaps correctly, that I have no right to tell others how to vote. I’ll grant you that.

But, after sitting through Dr. Gilbert’s talk, I find myself irritated with the idea that voting for Clinton is the ethical choice in this year’s election. The blood of Palestinian children tells us that this isn’t so. I also believe that any hope for progress on systemic racism and police violence in America is inextricably linked to the brutal oppression of Palestinians. Racism, militarism, and violence in our country are connected to racism, militarism, and violence in Israel. Clinton is ready and willing to say all the right things when it comes to American racism. She needs the black and liberal vote. But Palestinians don’t vote, and so their problems don’t matter. But I doubt if we can free ourselves from these oppressive forces at home until the U.S. changes its policy abroad. And so Clinton’s words, I think, amount to nothing. Her history of support for Israeli militarism and her promise to continue that support, on the other hand, says it all. Please, if you are going to vote, vote as if you yourself were a victim of U.S.-Israeli terrorism. Vote as if your ballot really carries some moral weight.

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