Sick of Politics As Usual? Show It. In Support of a National “Sick Out” on Election Day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about protest lately. In particular, I’ve been wondering how Americans who are sick and tired of being ignored and manipulated by our millionaire politicians can register their healthy discontent. And I’ve been wondering how we can really make them notice.

Marches and occupations by Black Lives Matter protesters have effectively disrupted traffic on freeways and in shopping malls this year, and that made the news and got people talking. I like that, but it’s localized and requires a lot of organizing. Not being a very social person and not living in a major metropolitan area limits my ability to participate in those protests. I’m wondering how we can all protest, even those of us who live in the far flung boondocks of rural America.

I thought about a “buy nothing” day on Election Day… But again, some people can’t resist shopping, and asking millions of people to carry their lunches to work or just eat at home may be more inconvenience than our softened citizenry can commit to.

My first thought was something that would hit the politicians in the pocket book, or so I reasoned. The idea was to postpone paying our taxes for a month next spring. Miss the deadline en masse and let the IRS and Congress sweat. While it’s a fascinating idea, it would take a lot of convincing to get enough people to participate to really make the penalties unenforceable. I may be underestimating people – except for the libertarians, who would probably just stop paying taxes altogether – but as compelling an idea as it is, I suspect we’re not quite ready for it.

Then I thought about a “buy nothing” day on Election Day. I mean literally buy nothing, all day, on November 8th. Empty restaurants and stores and zero online shopping would take a full day’s profit out of the national economy. That may not seem like much, but in November, as retailers are ramping up for holiday shopping, that’s no minor loss. Sure, if you could do it on Black Friday it would be even more impactful, but tying it to election day brings home the point that this is a political statement about our broken political process as well as the inequality resulting from the economy.

Not a bad idea, right? But again, some people can’t resist shopping, and asking millions of people to carry their lunches to work or just eat at home may be more inconvenience than our softened citizenry can commit to. Back to the drawing board.

Rather than ask people not to do something they enjoy, like shopping or going out to eat,  what if we ask them to simply take the day off and enjoy themselves however they damn well please?

That’s right, a National “Sick Out” on Election Day 2016.

This morning, however, it hit me. A protest that could be embraced fairly easily by millions of Americans, if not tens of millions of Americans, and with very little risk and considerable impact.

Rather than ask people not to do something they enjoy, like shopping or going out to eat,  what if we ask them to simply take the day off and enjoy themselves however they damn well please?

That’s right, a National “Sick Out” on Election Day 2016.

For quite a while we’ve been asking for Election Day to be made into a national holiday, or at least be moved to a weekend. Our representatives have made no effort to act on that request, so I say we do it anyway. Wake up on Tuesday morning, November 8th, and give your best “I don’t feel so good, cough, cough” performance to the boss on the phone. Then go back to sleep. Do whatever you want all day long. You have the entire day to vote, if you want to. Just. Don’t. Go. To. Work.

And then go to work Wednesday feeling refreshed and happy, knowing that you and millions of others used your legally sanctioned right to not work when sick in order to piss on the cornflakes of corporate America and their political stooges.

Cynics will immediately say it’s a useless gesture, but I disagree. I worked in a big corporate campus with thousands of employees. If merely a third of those people hadn’t come to work on the same day, very little would get done. Offices and stores are teams. If one third of the team doesn’t show, it can be painful. Hell, if one third of the staff at every single fast food chain was home sick, good luck getting your food “fast.” And if you think you can’t find a floor salesman at your local big box store when it’s fully staffed, try it when a third or more of the staff isn’t even in the building.

Businesses would notice. They’d be pissed. If enough of us participate, though, it’s not going to be us that gets the angry phone calls. It’s going to be our elected representatives who think they can do nothing and still keep their jobs. Pitting business owners against politicians upends the usual order. Corporate Democrats aren’t corporate democrats for nothing; and Republicans have had the corporate teat sucked halfway down their throats for decades. So, piss off business owners and you get the attention of our callous, greedy politicians and force them to stop and, maybe, just maybe, think.

How hard is that, folks? It’s not like you’ve never felt so overwhelmed by the world and your responsibilities that you haven’t called in sick before. If you’re sick of cheating, lying, greedy politicians acting like you owe them loyalty for just being the mega-rich political blue bloods of our broken nation, it’s hardly an exaggeration to say you need this.

Pitting business owners against politicians upends the usual order. Corporate Democrats aren’t corporate democrats for nothing; and Republicans have had the corporate teat sucked halfway down their throats for decades.

Best of all, we can organize the whole thing on social media. Even shut-ins like myself can spread the word. Rural Americans as well as urban Americans can join the protest. Quiet people can be heard as clearly as their more outspoken counterparts. Everyone would have a voice, no matter where they are.

Optimistically, if we raise the specter of a national “sick out” often enough and loudly enough, businesses might even join in. Small businesses with politically aware owners, sure, but even some who just see the inevitable mess that Election Day might become for them would close to avoid it. Larger businesses are probably willing to take the hit, but who knows. If we spread the word enthusiastically enough, we might just convince even political know-nothings to participate. The fear of that could force enough businesses across the country to offer a de facto national holiday to their employees.

Even if it doesn’t, though, the idea of actively and publicly expressing our dissatisfaction with our cynical and selfish political representatives and our dysfunctional elections would be worth it. Too often we settle for writing angry posts on social media, or even less effectively, banging our heads against the many walls we are confronted with in this so-called “democracy.” At least this way, at the small cost of one sick day, you help raise the voices of every single American who is exhausted and infuriated by how little our government actually does for us.

Spread the word. Circle November 8th on your calendar. It could be sick.

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