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I’m tired. I have begged. I have tried to stress the importance of participating in democracy. I have railed against the outrages of the current administration and the complete failure of the legislative branch. I’ve posted funny videos and heart-rending ones.
Democracy depends on an educated, informed, and active electorate. It’s my theory that elected officials work for us. They stay in office as long as they do what we want them to do. They get voted out if they ignore us.
This election, this time, it’s not about them versus us, not red against blue, Democrat against Republican, Pelosi versus Trump, liberal against conservative. This is not a game, not a contest, it’s not Survivor or American Idol. It’s not Alabama against Auburn.
This time, this election is about all of us, this entire country. It’s about the people, not the politicians. Not to be disingenuous, I state here that I am broken-hearted, angry, and determined to do everything I can to put a hold on the current president. But this is not about my standing as an infuriated progressive. It’s not about your fervent support of the president.
If we all vote, we win, not them. We get to say who stays and who goes. If everyone votes, then we control them. I don’t care if you are a Republican, conservative evangelical, white male. I know that if we all vote, then there are more of us than them, the craven politicians, the do-nothings in Congress. We rule, we say what our country is going to be, to stand for, we say what our country won’t tolerate.
In the 2016 election more people did not vote than the number who voted for either Clinton or Trump. More people didn’t vote. If everyone, every single registered voter, participates and votes, then nothing and no one can stop the working of our democracy, not Russian interference, not voter suppression, not gerrymandering, not lies, not PAC money or corporations as people, nothing.
There are more of us than there are of them. More voters than politicians. More votes than lobbyists, more voters than the NRA, more of us. If we all vote, we win. More voters with level heads and good hearts than the ones who follow a personality cult.
There are more minority voters, if you add all minorities together, than there are white voters. More African American, plus Latino, plus LGBTQ, plus Jewish, plus newly registered eighteen to twenty-five year-old voters, more of us than them.
Know which group has never been in power, but is not a minority group? Women. There are more women in this country than men. More women registered to vote than men. So why is Congress made up of mostly old white men? Why do we women keep voting for men who do nothing for us, in fact who do nothing at all?
How many old white men entered Congress young and not wealthy, but are now millionaires? How did they grow so rich working on a Congressional salary? Why does Paul Ryan get to “retire” at age 48 with a lifetime pension? He grew up poor, depended on Social Security, and is leaving Congress with a net worth of several million dollars. How does that happen? How did Mitch McConnell who grew up poor, become a millionaire, net worth around 27 millionaire?
McConnell is 76 years old. Maxine Waters is 80. Orrin Hatch is 84 years old, worth around 4.3 million, Chuck Grassley is 85, net worth 3 million. Nancy Pelosi is 78, with a net worth of around 26 million. Bob Corker, age 66, retiring Senator, 69 million. To be fair, some of these legislators acquired wealth the old fashioned way, before entering politics. it s an annoying and alarming, consistent fact that most of them have not a penny to their names when they enter Congress, and leave with guaranteed pensions and health care that most of us will never see. (See https://opensource.org/)
To recap, if we all vote, we win.
Women should take charge. Men have run this country, the government, the economy, the workforce, the court system, for over 200 years. Women can’t possibly do worse that they have done, making a nomination to the Supreme Court into a farce; allowing a person like Trump to rule by temper tantrum and greed; abdicating responsibility for the status of society where people scream at each other instead of listen; where compromise and cooperation are dirty words. Men have run this country where women did not get the vote until 1918; where Japanese Americans served honorably in WWII while their families were locked in internment camps and their property confiscated, where native Americans were systematically stripped of their land, their culture, their languages, and their dignity. A country governed by men did not allow African Americans equal citizenship until the 1960’s, and still today tries to suppress the right to vote. I agree with Ruth Bader Ginsberg when asked how many women should be on the Supreme Court, and she said nine. Men control a country where 27 years ago, a witness before a Senate Judicial committee was humiliated and denigrated, and where today, that same committee, with some of the same Senators, worked to push through a nomination without giving a female witness even the pretense of investigation, without calling for corroborating testimony, refusing to release more than 90% of the papers of the nominee. So, yeah, why not let women run things for a while. Do you really think they would allow the country to reach this state of incivility and division? Do you think women would allow this country to be the only one, in the entire world, to pull out of the Paris Accords? Do you think women would allow mining and drilling on national preserves? Would women allow hunting of endangered species? Would women allow, for even one minute, guns to be purchased by mentally ill, or violent people? Would women call for universal background checks for anyone who wants to own a gun? Would we want military assault weapons in the hands of citizens? Would women restrict free speech? Would women act on universal healthcare? For a fairer tax code? Women would get a balanced budget passed. They would insist on a woman’s right to decide about their own health. If all women everywhere voted, women could attain a majority in state houses, in Congress, on the courts. Women would get rid of the ridiculous Citizens United fiasco. Women could, and should, restrict all political donations from individuals, from corporations and PAC’s, to a miniscule amount. Women could, and should, raise the minimum wage. Women make up the majority in this country. What’s the worst that could happen if they had control of the reins of power for a while? Do you believe that women would separate families from their children at the border? Do you think women would insult NATO allies, start trade wars with Canada?
There is this country music program, syndicated to country FM stations every Sunday morning, called Rise Up. The host plays the song list, and in between takes calls from viewers who tell their stories of how they were changed by the Love of the Lord. Traveling long distances, stuck between FM stations, you hit this show, and it will make you cry like a children’s hospital telethon. (No I don’t have Sirius, are you serious?)
MSNBC used that phrase, rise up, for their ads. Rise up is the cry of the revolution, the call of the oppressed. There hasn’t been much rise in me since the campaign and the election. I’ve been going through the five stages of grief. I have been mentally and spiritually ill. I have been angry and heartbroken. I have been defiant, and I have been tired in my soul. Trump fatigue.
It’s been six months now, and we passed the Fourth of July, celebrating our independence. As a country, we are two hundred and forty one years old. And on Independence Day, many people took their oaths as newly minted American citizens. People like the doctor and the pharmacist who emigrated from Afghanistan thirteen years ago, and proudly claimed their citizenship, even as they remarked that now, they wouldn’t have been able to get visas, under this administration. Even so, despite the oppression, they are still happy to be here. I want to thank them.
Rise up, America. That’s the word we passed, from one to another, in 1775, in 1776, rise up and throw out the tyrant. Let us all hang together, or we shall certainly hang separately. Put your John Hancock on the line, and pledge your lives and your sacred honor. Give me liberty, or give me death.
Still. Even so. Despite everything. This country has always been one of contrasts, of vast differences, but bound indivisible by blood. What about the “liberty and justice for all”? That hasn’t always been the case, and yet it is right there, in our pledge of allegiance: “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence: “. . .that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Rise up, Americans. That’s something we take for granted, that when rising up is needed, someone will answer the call. Contrasts, differences, bound by blood. Yes, we have an ugly history, but also a quite beautiful one. There were indeed the Salem with trials, but we also produced Nathaniel Hawthorne. His great-great grandfather was one of the judges in those Salem witch trials.
Yes, we engaged in the systematic genocide of Native Americans. In WWII, some of those Native Americans became code talkers, calling in artillery and air strikes in their native languages so the Japanese couldn’t intercept and decode.
There was Stonewall, and the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Matthew Shepard and Micheal Sam.
There were Jim Crow laws to keep black Americans from voting, and the opposition to the Civil Rights movement exposed Bull Connor, and Jim Clark, and George Wallace, but that movement also gave us Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, one of the most moving speakers in all our history, and a great writer as well. The movement gave us Fannie Lou Hamer, and Rosa Parks, and John Lewis.
In WWI, when black men were not allowed to vote, they served with distinction in the 369th Regiment, known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” who served six months on the front lines under French command. One hundred and seventy one members earned Legions of Merit from the French government.
Women were oppressed, of course. They were thrown in jail, beaten, held without bond, for demanding the right to vote. They persisted, and they won.
Then there was Joe McCarthy, an alcoholic, a mean man with a tiny soul, that led the witch hunt of the 1950’s. But that era also produced Lillian Hellman “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashion.” That era produced Joseph Welch “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
We get all embarrassed by passion. But really, what is love of country? Did the Navajo code-talkers serve the country that slaughtered and suppressed their elders? No, they served the country they loved, were born to, and what they wanted to believe it stood for, freedom, simple human decency, and a stubborn grasp on the promise of what it could and should be.
When NPR tweeted the full text of the Declaration of Independence, some Trump supporters did not recognize it, and took it as an attack on Trump. “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Trump supporters disavow Declaration of Independence
Why did the Harlem Hellfighters sign up to fight for a country that lynched their fathers and refused them the dignity of full citizenship? Why did the Red Tails do what they did? The same country that produced the massacre at Wounded Knee also gave us also produced Freddie Stowers, the only black soldier awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in action in WWI. The country that beat down Emmitt Till, a fourteen-year-old boy, also gave us Abraham Lincoln and Juneteenth. The country that almost destroyed itself in the Civil War came together to defeat Japan and Germany in WWII. The country that created the nuclear bomb also instigated every treaty to limit the spread of nuclear arms, to reduce our stockpiles.
We blew up a church in Birmingham and killed four little girls, and we landed on the moon. With the help of black, female mathematicians. The country that refused a ship of Jewish refugees liberated Nazi death camps. The country that destroyed much of Europe also, through the Marshall Plan, fed and rebuilt Germany after its defeat.
The men that stormed the Normandy beaches went home and took jobs that women had worked admirably during the war.
This country, our country, gave women the right to vote, and decimated the first woman candidate for president. The country that passed the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and on July 30, 1965, passed into law Medicare and Medicaid, steps to insure old, disabled and poor Americans, also tries now to repeal the first attempt since 1965 to insure more Americans, and to deny 32 million people who now have health insurance.
To quote a Joni Mitchell song, “Every pictures has its shadows, and it has some source of light.” That source of light that throughout our history has served as a homing device, a beacon toward doing the right thing, “not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” That source, that light, bends toward justice, for all.
Take this not as a call to arms, but a call to our better selves. We have done it before, many times. Roosevelt interred Japanese in camps, and he appointed the first female Cabinet member. Time after time, we have risen up and met the challenges that faced this country. We in America know that our vote is sacred, that it is every citizens right and duty. That right has been attacked by an outside force. We can rise up, and join our local town councils, become poll workers, march door to door toplead with people to vote. That is our weapon. Over seventy million registered voters did not participate in the election of 2016. If everyone, every single registered voter, pledged to go to the polls in 2018, do you think Russia, or and other group colluding with Russia’s goals, could stop us? Hell to the no. Stop insulting voters who voted for Trump. They showed up, didn’t they? Grab anyone you know who didn’t vote and look them in the eye like a wild-eyed revolutionary, and demand that they participate in the process before voting becomes an historical artifact, instead of an organic element that keeps democracy alive.
We observed the inauguration, and the next day, watched the Women’s March.
What kind of country do you want to live in? Do you want one where political party affiliation is not so important any more, where serving the country in Washington for a limited time is seen as service, not entitlement. Do you want a country where getting re-elected in not so important as getting something done? Do you want a country that treat refugees with compassion? How about a country that once raced to the moon once again leading the world with renewable, safe energy advancement? How about a country that agrees to do its part in cleaning up the mess we make, like our mothers taught us? Would like to see a country that limits campaign donations, limits the length of time elections take, gives people a paid holiday to vote, retrains its local police forces often, sends elected officials to Congress to get something accomplished, and sends them home when they don’t? Do you wish to spend less money on a faster, meaner, more powerful military, and more on State Department initiatives that save lives and make allies instead of enemies? Do you believe that it is time women step to front to lead? Men have held the majority in power since the beginning of time. Do you really think women would do worse?
What do you really want, America? If you want your vote to mean something, first you have to cast it out there. If you want our elections to be free of outside interference, then vote. They can’t stop us all. Not we, the people. We hold the power. Let’s start using it. You want to clean up Washington? You really think that we can’t do it? Go look at those cliffs on Omaha Beach.