“How do we truly affect change” is the headline looping the Times Square electronic billboard of my mind. Each month when Jacki or I sit down to write this, there’s a theme of “oh boy the headlines just get worse” and “we are reeling from the news” and “this can’t be real.”
Well it is getting worse, we are definitely reeling, and it is more real than ever.
As I stare at the computer screen in the Philadelphia airport, after 3 hours of sleep on a red eye flight, CNN and FoxNews blare from the TVs, travelers are short-tempered, weary, and so am I. There’s a woman sitting too close to me on this bench (I hope she reads this and scoots over). She is inexplicably sighing, slurping coffee and blowing her nose all while she acts supremely annoyed for God knows what reason. I know that the sleep deprivation is playing tricks on my brain a little, but the oppressive feeling in this airport and throughout America is real. Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford is about to testify, and it feels like everything that matters to so many of us hangs in the balance.
So back to that opening question. Change. How do individuals participate in the political process that has powered the engine that brought us to this unthinkable destination of chaos?
Dr. Lori Poloni-Staudinger, Associate Dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, shared this with us:
“ Voting is your greatest responsibility as a citizen in a democracy. In order for democracies to function, they by definition require the active participation of their citizens. Some citizens may think their votes or their voices doesn’t matter. Every vote matters. There are ample cases where politicians have been elected with less than one percent of the vote. Your participation matters in other ways as well. Steady pressure from Arizona activists is credited with helping to save the Affordable Care Act in 2017and impacting Flake’s 11th hour call for a one week pause on the Kavanaugh vote. As Churchill explained ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others.’ It is our responsibility to engage in this democracy if we want it to continue.”
WHERE TO START:
EDUCATION. Take the time to read and learn about the issues and the candidates. Obviously, you want to be making the choices that fit your values and priorities. You also want to be able to talk intelligently to those around you, especially individuals who WON’T do the reading. This is an opportunity to change hearts and minds with the information that you learn. Combat ignorance with facts. There are still people out there who will hear you.
Be sure that your news sources are legitimate (see image below courtesy of MediaBiasChart.Com 2018). Whether it is left- or right-leaning there is an immense amount of inflammatory and false material on the Internet. Consider yourself a Woodward or Bernstein and verify your source before you take a piece of information as gospel and re-post it.
ACTIVISM: Find your local activist group. These organizations exist under many banners throughout the United States (Together We Will, Indivisible, etc). In Flagstaff, check out Together We Will, Northern Arizona (note, Dr. Poloni-Staudinger is also the President of this organization). TWWNAZ stands for equality and against sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and environmental destruction. This group works to advance these goals through an intersectional approach toward activism, fundraising, dialogue and community. Participation can be as low commitment as joining a Facebook group and reading what is posted. There are also usually rallies, specific daily/weekly actions (writing letters, making phone calls, ResistBot, etc) and other targeted to-dos that will help you find ways to get involved. One really important thing that our local TWW is doing is creating score cards for all candidates on our ballots (see below). Most activist groups are going through this exercise. If you want to see the other candidates’ score cards that we will be voting on in N. Arizona, join the TWWNAZ Facebook group. Not in Flagstaff? Find your activist group (see above).
SCORECARD EXAMPLES (Tom O’Halleran, incumbent Democratic candidate for Arizona’s First Congressional District, and Republican challenger Wendy Rogers).
Jacki and I chatted with Ann Heitland, the Communications Chair for the Coconino County Democratic party back in August. The overarching message from Ann and this organization is, you guessed it, get out the vote. The deadline to register to vote for the midterm elections is October 9. Ann also suggested phone banking, canvassing, and making donations. If you don’t relish the idea of knocking on doors or making cold calls, there are opportunities to send emails and texts as well. For more information on opportunities with our local Democratic party visit https://coconinodemocrats.org/#.
There is nothing more important than exercising your most basic right as a citizen of a Democracy, than casting your vote in every election that comes your way. Our good friends at Pod Save America have provided us with a great resource: www.votesaveamerica.com. Thirty seconds and you can make sure you are registered. Share this on your Facebook page, send it to your friends, and make sure that everyone knows their vote counts.
According to the Pew Research Center, “A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall voter turnout – defined as the share of adult U.S. citizens who cast ballots – was 61.4% in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008.” In the 2014 midterm elections, “… only 38.6% of eligible voters cast a ballot… the lowest percentage in a midterm election since World War II” (www.notprofitvote.org). Y’all that’s a lot of people who did not vote. We have to do better.
In addition to researching candidates, make sure you read all the mailers about ballot initiatives in your State and community. Sometimes these may have the biggest impact on your daily lives. It’s important to educate yourself on the facts. In Flagstaff, visit www.flagstaffelections.org.
During my three hours in the Philadelphia airport, I’ve gazed upon a giant display for the Eagles, heard the Rocky theme song, and reflected on “Brotherly Love” and the implications of that particular moniker on a day like today. I’m now on the plane to Charlottesville to spend a few days in the American south. It’s always an adventure and privilege to visit different parts of our beautiful country and appreciate the diversity. I think it’s important to bear witness and try and understand how we got to where we are. I am still working on opening my mind and heart to truly hear what others have to say and seek the common ground. I vacillate between that perspective and just wanting to burn it all to the ground in a Beyonce-style feminist blaze of glory. It’s a big topic and there’s more to come this month.
Footnote: It’s now 6 days later, and I am back in Flagstaff. A lot has happened with the Kavanaugh hearings and the buzz continues to get louder.. and louder… and louder.
… to be continued.