Being one who usually finds it absurd to vote for the Presidency, election day often leaves me with a peculiar feeling I can only compare to a particular private art I hesitate to expound upon in great detail. I hesitate because we all know the letdowns of this monotonous and lonely art as well as the public shame and absurdity associated with it. Yet, does not election day also bring its own letdowns, public shame, and absurdity? Of course it does. And when such a potentially rich analogue erects itself spontaneously in the mind, would it not be a sin to refuse this revolutionary thought the chance to grow, explode, and be known to all the world? Indeed, it would be. I cannot beat off my mind’s impulse any longer. Despite the reluctance of my better angels, I’m coming out with it. Here’s the rub: let us compare election day to the science of onanism.

However, since I am so sheepish to explore this topic alone, allow me to begin by way of a historical proxy. The place is Paris. The year is 1879. Mark Twain is giving a quick lecture on the subject of onanism to an assembly of fellow writers and artists known as The Stomach Club:

All great writers on health and morals, both ancient and modern, have struggled with this stately subject; this shows its dignity and importance.  Some of these writers have taken one side, some the other.

Homer, in the second book of the Iliad says with fine enthusiasm, “Give me masturbation or give me death.”  Caesar, in his Commentaries, says, “To the lonely it is company; to the forsaken it is a friend; to the aged and to the impotent it is a benefactor.  They that are penniless are yet rich, in that they still have this majestic diversion.”  In another place this experienced observer has said, “There are times when I prefer it to sodomy.”
     
Robinson Crusoe says, “I cannot describe what I owe to this gentle art.”  Queen Elizabeth said, “It is the bulwark of virginity.”  Cetewayo, the Zulu hero, remarked, “A jerk in the hand is worth two in the bush.”  The immortal Franklin has said, “Masturbation is the best policy.”

Michelangelo and all of the other old masters–“old masters,” I will remark, is an abbreviation, a contraction–have used similar language.  Michelangelo said to Pope Julius II, “Self-negation is noble, self-culture beneficent, self-possession is manly, but to the truly great and inspiring soul they are poor and tame compared with self-abuse.”  Mr. Brown, here, in one of his latest and most graceful poems, refers to it in an eloquent line which is destined to live to the end of time–“None knows it but to love it; none name it but to praise.”

Such are the utterances of the most illustrious of the masters of this renowned science, and apologists for it.  The name of those who decry it and oppose it is legion; they have made strong arguments and uttered bitter speeches against it–but there is not room to repeat them here in much detail.  Brigham Young, an expert of incontestable authority, said, “As compared with the other thing, it is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”  Solomon said, “There is nothing to recommend it but its cheapness.”  Galen said, “It is shameful to degrade to such bestial uses that grand limb, that formidable member, which we votaries of Science dub the Major Maxillary–when they dub it at all–which is seldom,  It would be better to amputate the os frontis than to put it to such use.”

Twain has delivered here an excellent exploration of the “masters” and the detractors of onanism, showing there is, indeed, a wide chasm between the two camps. So too is there a spacious gap in opinion between the energetic members of the body politic and the malcontents of natural society. To vote, or not to vote: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer a case of self-inflicted sycophancy in support of politicians or ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished to sleep in on the day of the polls; to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub. Or rather, which of the two is the better way to rub? Who is more self-governing? Who is the better master? Voter or the non-voter?

Those who affirm the vote are undoubtedly at an advantage in terms of solidarity. Their strength is in numbers and common experience, but as we will soon see, this strength may very well be their weakness. Those who shun their vote are the prodigal children of the populace, usually shunned by the more dutiful citizens, but as we will soon find, the prodigal ones always have more fun and more to show.

The voters: their common bond is built up by their common pride of having done their due diligence together. Each election, they all, one by one, enter those lonely voting booths nestled in the churches, schools, motels, and recreation centers across the nation, push their respective buttons, and pull on the civic lever. Together they then await for their poll results to slowly dribble out for all to see.

I personally find the whole practice disgusting. Maybe it is fine to behave in such a collective way in one’s own small town, but to put on the spectacle of self-government on a mass scale, treating the whole American nation as one flute to be played by many, verges on a kind of gross democratic exhibitionism. It is an atrocious orgy in search of a collective orgasm that never comes and altogether, a very disappointing affair. Yet, the voters keep up their gusto election after election, each cycle citing Ben Franklin’s immortal words,  “We must all jerk together, or assuredly we shall all jerk separately.”

That brings us to jerking separately.

The non-voters: they may lack the solidarity of the voting types, but their diversity of experience allows them more dynamic discoveries. They may spend their day twiddling their thumbs or thumbing their noses or sniffing roses or actually engaging in morning coitus. By skipping the whole spectacle of self governance, they are all the more self empowered. Their possibilities are endless.

However, they receive no stickers of commendation, and they must often endure condemnation from the voters for not participating in the great American circle jerk. Their pride is individual and discreet. Their accomplishment of having done nothing is solipsistic even. Yet, at the end of election day, they may very well be the true “masters” of the onanistic science. As that non-voting malcontent, George Carlin, said to his voting brethren, “So when you’re having one of those swell elections that you like so much…on that day I will be doing essentially the same as you…the only difference is when I get done masturbating I’ll have a little something to show for it.”

For now, I will leave it to you to decide who’s the better rub–I personally prefer being a non-voting prodigal son at least on the Presidential level–but whether one votes or doesn’t vote, just know either way you’ll be servicing yourself on election day.

I say this not as an expert regarding onanism, but as an opponent of that “social evil” I call American mass democracy. But, who am I to tell you which camp to join? And to boot, I am not sufficiently well versed in the science of onanism to judge the question for others. So, for the moral of the matter, let us return to the true expert, our historical surrogate, Mark Twain:

..all forms of the “social evil” are bad.  I would teach you that some of these forms are more to be avoided than others.  So, in concluding, I say, “If you must gamble your lives sexually, don’t play a lone hand too much.”  When you feel a revolutionary uprising in your system, get your Vendome Column down some other way–don’t jerk it down.