There once was a village named Ben Tre. It lay along a sleepy branch of a river a few dozen miles from the city of Saigon. When the Viet Cong, in its attempt to overwhelm and defeat the combined forces of the South Vietnamese government and their American allies, launched a surprise attack during the ceasefire declared to celebrate the festival of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, guerrillas attempted to overwhelm and capture the sleepy little town.
The Americans, in their attempt to keep their South Vietnamese allies from being overrun, used massive artillery and air strikes to indiscriminately bomb the town. Eventually the Americans won that day, killing 300 communist Viet Cong guerillas. But in the process, half the village was destroyed and almost 1,000 innocent civilians were killed. At one point, a truce was called so the living could throw the bodies of the dead villagers in the river so they wouldn’t spread disease among the soldiers. Later, when reporters asked how the military could wreck the town and kill so many innocent civilians, an American officer reportedly said, “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.”
It’s easy to morally justify things when we do them in the name of the righteousness of our beliefs. Sometimes they are epic in scale, such as when religious crusaders slaughter the non-believers; sometimes they are seemingly petty, like when a person steals from another so they can eat. The problem with this is that while it may seem right to us and those who agree with us, it always comes at a cost to someone else. The more we are assured in the righteousness of our cause, the easier it is to become dogmatic in our beliefs and hurt anyone who may stand in our way — the reality of the situation and circumstances be damned.
When I hear those people shout at the top of their lungs or type in all-caps #BernieorBust and #NeverHillary, I wonder how they can claim that they actually care about the people they say Bernie would be the best at helping. Some have said that if Hillary gets the nomination, they would vote for Donald Trump just to keep her from winning. A few have even said they welcome Trump winning because the damage he would cause would further justify and empower the revolution Bernie has promised them. They’re ready to burn the village in order to save it.
I fully appreciate the loyalty and ideology of Bernie supporters; he’s inspired many to vote for the first time and given hope to many that someone in Washington still cares about the little man or woman. However, Bernie will not win. Sanders has so thoroughly insulted the Democratic Party that he has begun to burn any bridges he might have had the chance to build. He is behind by 3 million popular votes and over 250 pledged delegates. There will be no miracle on June 7 to close a gap like that, barring a political upset the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Truman beat Dewey in 1948. Bernie will not flip superdelegates to his side, especially after he has called them corrupt and rigged against him. That bridge has been not merely burned, but carpet-bombed. Clinton is the uncrowned winner; her victory in the Democratic primary all but inevitable.
If, through a cosmic miracle, Bernie is the presidential nominee in November, I will vote for him though, because it’s the right thing to do.
To do anything to allow Trump to win because Bernie will not be his opponent is petulant, childish, and ultimately destructive. I’m one that loathes throwing around the accusation of “privilege,” but in this case, that’s what any action that allows Trump a chance to win is. To think along these lines means that you do not in fact care about women’s rights, LGBT rights, the plight of people of color and Muslims, the First Amendment, the poor, the marginalized, the environment, global stability, economic security, and the progressiveness you hold say you hold so dear. You merely care about getting what you want, which was Bernie Sanders and the things he promised you. In all probability, nothing would affect you in a Trump presidency. You probably have enough money, are straight or cisgender enough, white enough, Christian enough, and male enough to be able to survive four, or God help us, eight years of a Trump presidency. If you don’t have any of that, and are still OK with giving him a chance at winning, then you simply don’t care enough about others.
I’ve heard the rather astute claim of: “Trump can’t do all that, the President’s not that powerful.” It’s an odd argument, because much of Sanders’s plans require an imperial presidency to get them done. But, you are right, President Trump wouldn’t be able to rewrite the First Amendment, ban abortion, or make Mexico build a wall. He couldn’t do any of those things by fiat, but he doesn’t really need to in order to make things worse; he just has to win. Think of how every time a person of color achieves a great accomplishment, such as the presidency, how empowered racial minorities must feel. When they cast a trans woman in a major television role or appointed to a major political office, think of how awesome it felt for a trans woman struggling to survive in Chicago or D.C. or Tulsa. All these times you see someone just like you doing great things, it fosters self-confidence and inner strength.
You think that only applies to minorities? When a racist, a homophobe, a sexist, an all-around bigot sees someone like Donald Trump saying incoherent vile things, you don’t think they feel empowered? That the wave of “PC” they hate is rolling back? People have already been inspired at Trump rallies to attack minorities. Imagine when all the bigots of America see a man who refuses to disavow the Ku Klux Klan and endorses political violence swearing on a Bible to be our leader. Jim Crow won’t instantly come back, and Roe and Obergefell won’t be overturned overnight, but they don’t have to be. Not when xenophobic Americans feel they have the support of our country’s leader and a Congress filled with those who bow to him.
In life you have to take the lesser of two evils, sometimes. Jill Stein and her Green Party are non-starters in presidential politics. No third party has ever won, and 2016 will not be the year for them, so give up on that right now. Ralph Nader syphoned off enough votes from Gore in 2000 to give us George W. Bush and his disastrous wars. BernieorBuster, imagine the upset that you felt about the war in Iraq — you should realize you’re probably not as upset as the average Iraqi is.
Voting for Stein, or not at all, would potentially give us whatever disaster Trump would bring us. Thinking that Trump would make things so bad that it would finally give your cause and beliefs the popular support you want shows a callous indifference to the people you say you support. You’re destroying the village in order to save it.
What ever happened to the village of Ben Tre? Five years after the Americans bombed the village into oblivion, there were no American soldiers fighting in Vietnam; they had given up and gone home. Ben Tre was never saved from communism, nor was the nation of Vietnam. To this day, Vietnam is a communist state and the only country that has defeated the U.S. in a war. Destroying the village did not save it. The end did not justify the means. The only result of that act was a thousand dead innocents caught in an act only justifiable by blind adherence to an ideological struggle.
You may feel justified in your righteousness, but your vote of protest against Hillary won’t save the village — it will leave pain and ruin.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian in Oklahoma City.