This year is the first time I won’t be casting a ballot in the major four year cycle since I’ve been legally allowed to vote. Yes, you’re correct. I won’t be marking the “down ballot” races either. It’s not just that I don’t see the point in participating. I see harm in it.

Typically, public statements about how people ought to vote or the truth concerning the Presidential (or any other) race annoy the hell out of me. The presumptuous and condescending tone with which these declarations are made sets off my Spidey-sense. There has to be an agenda behind them beyond mere concern for this country’s future. Otherwise, why would so much vitriol be necessary? Mainly, I think a person is baring his soul with such sentiments, openly showing what he thinks of everyone else and how everyone else affects his life. So, allow me to bare my soul for a moment.

I know you don’t give a damn how I am (or am not, as it were) voting. I’m not penning this pronouncement to look down upon you, convince you my conclusion is right for you, or seek external validation for my choice. (Ok, maybe it’s like 15% a quest for validation.) I’m simply stating it because I haven’t seen it stated anywhere else.

I can’t participate in this Presidential Election and be ok with myself. Knowing that I in someway sanctioned the result would cause me guilt over the next four year. Whenever I saw or heard the President’s latest actions or words, I would be reminded that I decided it was ok to pretend that what’s going on is ok. Because what’s going on is not ok. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the worst two (major party) candidates for President in the history of the United States of America. Worse yet, they won’t be the worst yet because people are pretending what’s going on is ok. And I can’t imagine being in my 70s and telling my grandkids or students or audience (whichever I’ve brought into my life at that point) that I knew it wasn’t right but went against my own mind.

I’m well aware that the choice is always between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. South Park has been a staple of my Wednesday night television viewing for my entire adult life. (So has a show about voting for what you think is best for yourself, by the way.) I know that I’m Stan in this situation, jaded to all of the exhortations and arguments being hurled at and around me. Generally, I agreed with the episode’s argument. Now though, I see it not as Vote or Die but Vote and Die. Any thought or action that does not contribute to improving my life contributes to worsening it. Any further energy expended on this Presidential race (up to and including figuring out which candidate is more evil and driving to and spending time in line at a polling place) makes my life worse.

I’ve also heard the argument that not voting isn’t an action of rebellion; it’s an act of submission. Well…ok. You’re right; I guess. I’m not in control of my future in the sense that governmental decisions that I have no say in shape what I am and am not allowed to do. I never really have been, but at least before I could see some sliver of a string of causation between my vote and the decisions that were made. This time it’s like someone’s telling me I have to watch either Birdman or Black Swan and expecting me to care enough to respond. At least by keeping my mouth shut, I can make it through by knowing that the dark view of humanity I’m watching unfold before me doesn’t reflect me.

And yes, I know a choice closer to what I believe exists in Gary Johnson. I respect that many people are voting for him just as I respect, to a lesser extent, that many people are voting for the lesser of two evils. But, for me, voting for Johnson is like being told that instead of Birdman or Black Swan I can choose Transformers but I’m never going to actually watch it even if I do choose it. Even more, if I did actually watch it, it wouldn’t inspire much excitement in me even though I’d generally enjoy the experience. So, if my preference for seeing Transformer won’t ever be taken seriously enough to even influence future movie night choices, I’m not going to pretend I’m there for any reason other than the screen being large, the sound system crisp, and the popcorn hot.

The United States is still the greatest country that has ever existed. I love the historically unequaled prosperity our government has facilitated and the freedoms it has protected. Sometimes though the exercise of those freedoms makes me want to watch the world burn. As I hear and read the words of Hillary Clinton supporters exalting her as a wonderful human being and decrying Donald Trump as the devil or Hitler (or some combination of the two), I find myself wanting to vote for Trump out of spite. How amusing would it be to watch these delusional or deceitful people flip out while living under a Trump Presidency? Fortunately, I’m no Joker (nor do I want to be), so I choose to remain silent.

More important to me than my love for the United States, more important to me than my love for you, is my love for myself. I’d be in jeopardy of losing that self esteem if I voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton (or participated in this election season at all, especially here in California), two candidates who agree that it’s the government’s job to decide how I should live. How can I take responsibility for my life while at the same time saying that choosing between people who want to keep me under control is a-okay? I can’t, so I won’t.

And while not voting may not free me, it does make it so I can watch what happens over the next four years with contended relief knowing that it has nothing to do with me.